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Happy Homecoming in Big D for Deron

 

by Alex Sims, March 21, 2013

After Deron Williams saw his step-back jumper hit nothing but nylon to give the Brooklyn Nets a nine-point fourth-quarter lead in Dallas on Wednesday night, he looked back at his beaming teammates and couldn't help but smile.

Deron scored 26 points in the second half to lead the Nets past the Mavs on Wednesday (Getty Images).

The shot went down as the 10th points in three minutes for No. 8— part of his scorching 26-point second half effort. Though it came just midway through the final frame, the bucket proved to be a demoralizing blow for the Mavericks at home and the Nets cruised from there to a 113-96 road triumph.

"When you're feeling good and feel like you can't miss, it's a good feeling," Deron said. "I looked over at my bench and saw the excitement. It's a big win for us, Being in my hometown or not, this was a big win."

It was the second straight 31-point game for No. 8 (Getty Images).Though D-Will downplayed the hoopla, much was made prior to the game in Dallas of D-Will's return to his hometown. The Mavericks are enduring the worst season for the franchise in the last decade and still stinging from D-Will's decision to re-sign with Brooklyn rather than sign with Dallas this offseason. Despite the outside storylines, Deron approached his homecoming as any other game—and as usual, he was focused on picking up another win.

"My family's here. My friends are here. I grew up a Mavericks fan. It's always good to come back here and play," he said. "I always get up for the games at home because it's home and given the situation. Honestly, I just tried to attack it as a regular game. My thought process was the same today as it is any other game. I didn't eat anything special. It was just a regular game for us, but a big game for us."

Despite his incredible second half, it wasn't all D-Will for the Nets on Wednesday. The night began as the Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche show down low. The duo combined for 32 first-half points. D-Will, meanwhile, had just five points off seven attempts in the first, but did compile five assists.

"In the first half I didn't really do anything," No. 8 said. "Blatche and Brook had it going, so I was just kind of sitting back and facilitating, getting the ball down low in the post."

D-Will dished to Lopez for his first two field goals of the game, which helped the Nets big man on his way to 15 points in the first quarter. Lopez finished with a season-high 38 points, including Brooklyn's first nine points of the game. After those nine, Deron knocked down consecutive buckets including a three off a cross-court feed from Joe Johnson.

Despite the strong start from Lopez offensively, Brooklyn had its struggles on the other end, which led to a 10-point Dallas advantage at the end of the first quarter.  But the Nets made a comeback, led by two members of Brooklyn's bench, Blatche and Keith Bogans, who teamed up to lead a second-quarter scoring surge. Blatche went 6-for-6 for 14 points in the second and Bogans knocked down a pair of triples, as Brooklyn managed to bring the game back even at 51 by halftime.

After the break, it was all Brooklyn. While the Nets began to show defensive progress, D-Will and Lopez took over offensively, combining for 27 points off 11-of-13 shooting.

"We didn't play too well in the first half, but we came out in the second half with a different sense of urgency on the defensive end," D-Will said. "We scrambled a lot more. We helped each other out. We executed our game plan."

A few minutes into the quarter, No. 8 put the Nets over the top when he drove hard to the right against Mavs guard Mike James. D-Will drew heavy body contact from James, but managed to cast him aside and finish his driving layup off the glass. Deron completed the three-point play at the line to give Brooklyn 61-59 advantage, and from then on, the Nets never trailed.

No. 8 ended up playing all but the final 52 seconds of the second half, only exiting once the game was well in hand. Brooklyn interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo had intended to give D-Will a breather in the final 24 minutes, but as he heated up over the third and into the fourth, Carlesimo found it impossible to take him out.

"Deron played out of his mind," Carlesimo said. "I kept telling him I would get him out a minute or two in the second half and he goes, ‘Are you watching what's going on out there?' So, obviously we didn't take him out until the end. I'm not saying that's as good as we can play, but that's one of our best games obviously all year."

The Nets built an eight-point cushion going into the final frame, but led by star forward Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs began to battle back. Dallas quickly cut the lead down to three in the fourth, forcing D-Will to take action.

After a couple of quick misses, No. 8's started to heat up again. Early in the fourth, he drove left then spun back to the middle and hit with one hand from eight feet out. Moments later, he connected on consecutive crossover step-back jumpers near the middle of the floor and he finished his quick eight-point spurt by splashing a baseline jumper off a feed from Joe Johnson.

Then, exactly one minute after that baseline jumper, D-Will capped off an 8-2 Brooklyn run with another hit from the baseline. Reggie Evans corralled a blocked shot by Lopez on the other end and found Deron on a quick outlet pass.

Deron took over the game in the fourth, attacking the defense and hitting jumper after jumper (Getty Images).

D-Will darted up the floor past a scrambling Dallas defense, created a pocket of space and buried another step-back jumper, which forced a Mavericks timeout. Immediately after Deron's shot hit bottom, those on Brooklyn bench jumped to their feet to greet their beaming point guard.

"I was amazed," said Blatche, who watched much of Deron's hot streak from the sidelines. "You could tell he was dialed in."

Even the Dallas players were amazed at how quickly and vehemently D-Will caught fire in the fourth. Mavs forward Elton Brand acknowledged Deron's connection to Dallas, but was still caught by off guard by his late-game performance.

"In the first half we kind of held him under control and then he knocked down a jumper and he was aggressive," Brand said of D-Will. "You could see it in his eyes. He was going to shoot it no matter what. We all know about free agency and our fans and us recruiting him. We knew he wanted to play well here."

Brand ended up helping Dallas cut the Brooklyn lead down to just six after D-Will's timeout-forcing transition jumper. However, No. 8 then teamed up with his backcourt partners Johnson and Bogans to deliver the dagger in Dallas.

D-Will's second half success opened up opportunities for his teammates as well (Getty Images).

Bogans found Johnson for the first triple to stretch the lead to 10. Then D-Will stepped up 25 feet from the basket near the American Airlines Center logo on the right wing, took a feed from Bogans and knocked down a long trifecta to give Brooklyn a 13-point lead.

"It's a great shooting atmosphere, the way the arena is set up," Deron said of Dallas' American Airlines Center. "It's got great sightlines, the lighting is great, so that's why it's one of my favorite arenas to shoot in."

Bogans added another triple of his own with just 52 seconds left on the clock to make it a 16-point lead, which signaled the end of the contest, as the reserves filed in for both squads.

The big win was Brooklyn's second straight to start their eight-game road trip and the Nets have now won six of their last eight games. It was also vital in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the top five teams in the East all picked up victories on Tuesday and Wednesday.

NEXT UP

Brooklyn (40-28) will continue on to the west coast for game three of its eight-game road slate.

They return to action on Saturday night in Los Angeles for a meeting with the Clippers (47-22). The Nets and the Clippers currently hold the No. 4 seed in their respective conferences and each squad will still be jockeying for position over their final playoff push.

Saturday's contest will be the second and final meeting between the two squads of this season. The Nets took round one 86-76 in Brooklyn back on Nov. 23.

No. 8 will yet again be matched up with L.A.'s star point guard Chris Paul. The two have often drawn comparisons over their careers, ever since they were selected No. 3 and 4 in the 2005 NBA Draft.

Currently, D-Will—who was selected third in 2005—holds a 14-4 head-to-head advantage over Paul for their careers.

But more than individual matchups, Deron and the Nets are focused on continuing their winning ways as they head to the west coast.

"We're 2-0. That's a good start to this trip," D-Will said. "Now we have to re-focus since we've got a tough test coming ahead of us in the Clippers, who are playing great basketball. We have to be ready to go."

Saturday night's tilt at the Staples Center is scheduled for a 10:30 p.m. EDT tip-off. The game will air locally on the YES Network.

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