Commentary

Williams exacts payback on Jeremy Lin

All-Star guard had Monday's rematch circled, then delivered his best game as a Net

Updated: February 21, 2012, 2:34 AM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Deron Williams had it circled.

Williams hadn't forgotten the events of Feb. 4, when he helped spawn "Linsanity," allowing Jeremy Lin to exploit him and his teammates for 25 points and seven assists. So 16 days later, D-Will desperately wanted to make Jeremy look "Lin-significant."

Yes, in the words of Rex Ryan, this one was "personal."

"I don't really watch 'SportsCenter' and I don't really watch too many games," Williams said. "But when I went on Twitter and people were tweeting at me, every three lines was Jeremy Lin destroyed Deron Williams, so I definitely took offense to that from the first game. Like I said, I had it circled."

Deron Williams
AP Photo/Bill KostrounDeron Williams went after Jeremy Lin early and often in Monday's Nets win.

Even before tipoff, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony could see the fire in Williams' eyes.

"We're competitors. I know I would [want revenge]," Anthony said. "I saw it in him in the captains' meeting at half court. You could just look at him and tell he was ready, ready for this game."

By the time the final buzzer sounded, there was no doubt. In what was unequivocally his best game with the New Jersey Nets, Williams exploded for a season-high 38 points -- 18 in the third quarter -- and knocked down a career-high eight 3-pointers, carrying his team to a 100-92 victory over the hated Knicks in front of a stunned sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Vintage Jason Kidd, indeed.

Lin scored 21 points, dished out nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds, but it was Williams who stole the show -- and the headlines -- as the Nets (10-24) snapped a five-game losing streak against the Knicks (16-17).

"We wanted to attack their point guard position, and keep their point guard involved offensively and not allow him to rest on defense, and it worked for us," said coach Avery Johnson.

"We kept it really simple. We had a small package of plays, we probably ran three plays [Monday night]. We just wanted to run them to perfection.

"Deron was on fire. I told him even this morning, if you've got some looks at threes, just take them. We know you can make them, but just be aggressive, and if their point guard's not on you, we'll figure out a way to get him back on you, and we want you to attack."

Williams was in attack mode from the opening tip -- and he inflicted the majority of his damage from behind the arc. Late in the third quarter, he scored 12 straight points -- including a four-point play and two 3s -- as the Nets extended to an 18-point lead with 2:05 left in the stanza.

"He took the game over," said rookie MarShon Brooks, who added 18 points. "We just followed suit."

Williams would've finished with more if he didn't get in foul trouble down the stretch. But he picked up his fifth with 7:42 remaining, and was disqualified 4:35 later -- just six seconds after he drained a 17-footer for his final points of the night. The Nets nearly folded, but their role players did just enough down the stretch to allow them to prevail.

"We did it on the defensive end," Williams said after the Nets held the All-Star-laden Knicks to 40 percent shooting. "It's not a good feeling sitting over there, especially when you're feeling that hot, but it was my fault, I had a couple stupid fouls late in that game."

Didn't matter.

Williams has called this season the most difficult one of his career. He hasn't had a post presence all season, and the Nets have struggled as a lousy defensive team that lives and dies by the 3 due to Brook Lopez's absence because of a broken foot for all but one game this season. On Monday night, they lived because they made 15 triples. Oh, and because Williams went off. In New Jersey's 10 victories this season, D-Will has averaged 27.9 points and 9.6 assists.

"I've never lost at any level going back to middle school," said Williams, who finished 10-for-22 from the field, 8-for-14 from 3-point range and 10-of-12 from the free throw line, while adding six assists and four rebounds in 34 minutes. "It's definitely been a struggle, but I'm learning to fight through things and lead guys, even though it's not the best situation all the time. We're playing better as it goes. It's still a fun process, just hopefully not an extended one."

D-Will's future is uncertain. He has stated his intentions to opt out. The Nets know they need to make a big splash to keep him. Dwight Howard is that big splash. And the rumors aren't going to die until both of them find a permanent home. Maybe it's together. Maybe it's not.

But none of that mattered on Monday night. Not when Williams was high-stepping and putting up three fingers -- signaling that he banged in another. Kidd used to hate the Knicks, and reveled in beating them at the Garden. There was nothing better.

On Monday night, Williams wanted nothing more than to outplay the undrafted Harvard grad that had become the bane of his NBA existence. He did. And he took great pleasure in doing it, the way J-Kidd once did, too.

"It's an amazing story that he was gonna be cut the next day, and to come out and play the way he did against us and keep it going [was neat]," Williams said of Lin. "Even [Monday night] he had a great game. It's going to be overshadowed because of mine, but he's playing great basketball so hopefully it's a tremendous story."

Williams scripted an even better one on Monday night. And to think, he was playing his third game in as many days.

"I didn't even shoot before the game," Williams said. "I just wanted to get all the rest I could. I didn't have my legs in my shot [Sunday against Milwaukee], so I just wanted to rest and ice up before the game and get ready to go."

He was ready, all right. Ready to make it a statement and it showed. Maybe he should circle every game.

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