D-Will 'Whoas!' as Nets win

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
11:39
PM ET
All Deron Williams did on Wednesday night was make you say “Whoa!”

The one-handed dunk in the first quarter. “Whoa!”

The driving layup with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. “Whoa!”

The fadeaway jumper from the baseline with two Sixers defenders draped all over him in the extra session to tie the game at 90. “Whoa!”

And last but certainly not least, the cross-over, step-back 3-pointer with 26.3 seconds remaining that put the Nets ahead 93-90 and sent them on their way to their biggest victory of the season. “Whoa!”

Williams was everything the Nets needed him to be and more in their 97-90 victory over the first-place Sixers in Philadelphia. He scored 17 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. He dished out 11 assists. He grabbed four rebounds. And he shot 14-for-28 from the field, including 3-for-7 from 3-point range.

Recently, all the GMs in the NBA were polled. They were asked who they thought the best point guard in the league was. Last season, they voted D-Will No. 1. But this season, he didn’t even make their top three.

No one said this was going to be easy, going from a perennial contender in Utah to a bottom-feeder in New Jersey. All the Nets and their fanbase have asked is that D-Will give it his all.

Maybe Brook Lopez is out. Maybe you’re playing with a bunch of new faces, many of them one-dimensional. Maybe you haven’t had enough time to practice. So what?

Go out there, give it all you’ve got, and if that isn’t enough, then so be it.

At times, Williams has let his frustrations show. Recently, he was told his body language needed to change. Last week, he blamed Prudential Center for his shooting woes.

But on Wednesday night, Williams had no excuses. He put the team on his back, played his best game as a Net and carried them to victory against one of the best teams in the NBA.

It’s probably hard to believe, but D-Will opened up the game by missing his first three shots and turning the ball over twice.

Coming into the game, according to CBSSports.com’s Dunk-O-Meter, he’d had just two flushes all season. But his third one -- the one that ignited him -- may as well have counted for 10.

Just when you forgot that D-Will could dunk, he made you remember.

Later on, D-Will and his 37.8 field goal percentage and his 32.3 3-point field goal percentage made you remember he could shoot. And down the stretch -- in crunchtime -- when his team needed him to elevate his game and make clutch shots, D-Will made you remember he could.

When the buzzer sounded, the only thing you couldn’t remember was that rookie MarShon Brooks didn’t play.

On Wednesday night, the Nets didn’t need him. D-Will made sure of that.

His performance on Wednesday night isn’t going to change the fact that the Nets have won just 42 of their last 183 games, including six of their first 19 in 2011-12.

But it made you remember just great he can be when he wants to be, and why the Nets risked their future to acquire him. They did it so they could potentially have a superstar heading into Brooklyn that could put bodies in the seats and carry the franchise to a championship.

On Wednesday night, D-Will wasn’t just good. He was “Whoa!” good.

Consider: According to ESPN Stats & Information, just two players in the NBA this season have had multiple 30-point, 10-assist games, LeBron James ... and D-Will.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Joe Johnson
PTS AST STL MIN
15.5 3.7 0.9 35.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 7.1
AssistsD. Williams 6.3
StealsJ. Jack 1.2
BlocksB. Lopez 1.6