NEW YORK — After a series of ankle injuries this season, Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams is still trying to settle back into the type of form that has made him a perennial All-Star of years past.
On Monday night, Williams managed to find that magic touch, scoring 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting while recording three steals as the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Phoenix Suns 108-95.
“I’m definitely feeling better,” Williams said. “I’m feeling more confident every day and just trying to get that confidence to continue.”
Williams’ big night even contained a questionable dunk that had his team divided when he seemed to throw down a one-handed effort over Suns guard Ish Smith.
“We’re trying to debate if that was a dunk,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said jokingly. “He was great tonight, he was healthy, he looked good, but you’re going to have to ask him if that was a dunk.”
It was the Nets’ eighth win in 10 games as they are three games over .500 for the second time this season.
“This was a big game for us,” Williams said. “We had to bounce back and we needed to make sure that we got this game on our home court.”
Williams led a balanced offensive effort that saw all five Brooklyn starters score in double figures. Guard Joe Johnson added 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“He’s a very talented player, so Deron put on a lot of pressure,” Kidd said. “I thought he did a good job of finding guys, guys setting screens for them. The looks that he had, they were all great looks. They weren’t forced and he was getting to the basket.”
The Suns have lost four of their last six games as they hunt for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They dropped 1 1/2 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies, who occupy the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
“It looked like it was going to be a difficult game right from the start,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They came out of timeouts and didn’t run the play that we had on the board, they didn’t know where to go. I just didn’t think their heads were in it.”
The Nets used a 9-2 run early in the second half to build a 20-point lead with seven minutes left in the third quarter. The Suns answered with a 14-3 run over the following three minutes to cut their deficit to nine points, but that was as close as they would come.
“I think ball movement was important. There were multiple touches on the ball tonight,” Kidd said. “On defense, there was attention to details. … We had a lead and we kept it. They kept making runs and we responded.”
Taking on a team that was physical down low, the Nets had no trouble scoring under the basket. Since Jan. 1, the Nets scored 44 or more points in the paint five times. In the first half alone, the Nets scored 44 points in the lane. They finished the night with 52.
Suns forward Markieff Morris led the team with 18 points while guard Gerald Green added 17 points off the bench. Guard Goran Dragic, who was averaging 20.5 points and 6.1 assists per game, was held to just 13 points and two assists as foul trouble limited his time.
“If you don’t come mentally prepared for the game and thinking about it all day long, you have slip-ups, the lazy passes, the not holding the guy up so he can get open,” Hornacek said. “It’s all the little things in the game that help you win. We did none of them.”
The scoring was being distributed nicely early on for the Nets on their way to a 67.5 percent shooting mark in the first half. All five starters had at least seven points in the first half as they built a 62-49 halftime lead, with Williams leading the charge with 15 points.
“We’re definitely playing better,” Williams said. “The crowd was getting into it and giving them something to cheer about.”
There was a Plumlee family affair taking place at the opening tip-off as opposing centers and brothers, Miles for the Suns and Mason for the Nets, each received starts on Monday night. The younger brother, Mason, recorded 14 points and nine rebounds while Phoenix’s Miles had three points and six rebounds.
NOTES: The Nets have won eight of their last 10 games, moving them up to second place in the Atlantic Division, three games behind the Toronto Raptors. … Suns G Goran Dragic is making a name for himself in the NBA during his fifth season. The Slovenian is averaging 20.5 points per game and 6.1 assists. … Averaging 105.2 points per game, the Suns offense took on an ever-improving Nets defense that has climbed up to eighth in the league allowing 98.9 ppg.
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