by Jordan Garretson, April 16, 2012
Though his New Jersey Nets were eliminated from playoff contention last week, the objective of Deron Williams has not changed.
D-Will goes into every game wanting and expecting to win. Whether it’s to secure a playoff spot — as it’s has been in the past — or just to dash the hopes of an opponent — as it is now — the goal remains to compete for a win.
"We’re not really playing for the playoffs," Deron told the New York Post. before a weekend pair of games with the Sixers and Celtics. "So we’re just going to try to get as many wins as possible and try to spoil the other teams playoff hopes."
No. 8 sets about accomplishing that goal the best ways he knows how, by scoring and assisting. This weekend featured more of the same from D-Will as he recorded his 21st and 22nd double-doubles of the season while helping New Jersey garner a split of its weekend couplet of games.
NET CHANGEUP IN PHILLY
The Nets opened the weekend in Philadelphia, where they played their second straight game against the Sixers.
Though it was a losing effort, Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia showed the Nets a blueprint for success as the Sixers took Deron out of the game with double teams leaving one man open on each play.
On Friday, D-Will adjusted his game and trusted his teammates. He dished out 10 assists to go with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals as he led the Nets to a 95-89 victory over the playoff-minded Sixers.
The deciding factor in New Jersey's favor proved to be 3-point shooting. Though the Nets weren't especially hot, shooting just 6-of-16 from downtown, that mark blew away Philadelphia's 1-for-10 long-range struggles.
D-Will personally assisted on all but one of New Jersey's three-point shots, including MarShon Brooks' 26-foot dagger with 43 seconds left. Brooks finished 9-of-15 from the floor for 22 points, helped not only by Deron's on-court distribution, but some off-court conversation with the Nets' point guard as well, he told the Associated Press. No. 8 instructed his young backcourt-mate to trust in himself
"I've been thinking a little too much the last couple of weeks, not making shots and everything," Brooks said. "D. Williams has been talking to me about it. He's like, 'Just shoot the ball. If you miss it, you miss it.'"
The victory was the Nets' seventh in their last 11 games, and it came just three nights after a 19-point walloping from the Sixers in New Jersey. Friday night’s Nets bore little resemblance to Tuesday's model and Coach Avery Johnson told the Star-Ledger that the Nets didn't waste any time feeling sorry for themselves.
"We weren’t at our best the last time we played them," Johnson said. "I think we were a little bit feeling sorry for ourselves because Gerald Wallace was injured again and we had to make another adjustment. No feeling sorry for ourselves tonight. We played hard."
LEADING THE ROOKS
In addition to helping his Nets play spoiler, D-Will is also playing a key role in the development of New Jersey's younger players.
Rookie big man Jordan Williams' recent play is the latest example of Deron's value in that respect. D-Will assisted on three of Jordan's four baskets on Saturday against Boston, including this spectacular behind-the-back feed:
Bolstered by D-Will's playmaking knack, Jordan Williams finished with 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for the first double-double of his NBA career. After the game Deron spoke to The Record about Jordan's recent ascent:
"Jordan Williams has really blossomed the last couple weeks — he’s been given a greater role, I think, and he’s still performing," Deron said. "He’s out there rebounding, he’s finishing around the basket, he’s making the right plays."
D-Will finished Saturday's 94-82 loss to Boston with 12 points and 14 assists. Despite the losing result, he was still able to delight to home crowd with what has seemingly become a nightly Nets tradition — a jaw-dropping alley-oop set-up for Gerald Green.
Saturday's contest was no different, with Green skying yet again to flush down a D-Will pass:
Deron showed resolve after being assessed an early technical foul, recording 10 of his 14 dimes in the first half alone. D-Will's playmaking helped New Jersey remain even with the Celtics in the first half and the two teams went to halftime tied at 48.
But the Nets went cold in the third quarter and Boston went on a 26-13 run in the period. New Jersey shot just 6-of-25 from the floor, helping to separate the Celtics for their eventual victory. D-Will said Boston simply outperformed the Nets in the second half.
"They played harder and played better," Deron told the Associated Press. "They took us out of our rhythm, and then we couldn't stop them at the other end."
New Jersey still has plenty of opportunities to play spoiler again before the season ends.
Monday begins a string of four-straight games against Eastern Conference teams eithrer vying for either a playoff spot or higher playoff seeding, beginning with a home game against the Miami Heat on Monday.
The Nets will be looking for their first win against Miami this season after dropping their first two meetings. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on YES2.
- Kris Humphries, Nets put dent in 76ers' playoff push (Associated Press, April 13, 2012)
- Nets' youngsters have plenty to play for (The Record, April 13, 2012)
- Nets left playing spoiler over final seven games (New York Post, April 13, 2012)
- Nets defeat Philadelphia 76ers on day their move to Brooklyn made official (The Star-Ledger, April 13, 2012)
- Avery Bradley's string of 3-pointers lifts Celtics to win vs. Nets (Associated Press, April 14, 2012)