Deron Williams had another big game in the second half of the season. Credit: Getty Images
A Josh McRoberts dunk with six minutes left put in the Nets in one of those rare instances of late — trailing in the second half at home.
Then Deron Williams decided to atone for blowing a defensive assignment on McRoberts by taking over offensively.
Williams scored 25 points and made a handful of key plays down the stretch as the Nets ran their home winning streak to 10 games with a 103-98 victory over the Bobcats.
“I feel confident,” Williams said. “Confidence is getting back and that’s a good thing for me. I tend to play well when my confidence is high. I just got to keep it there, keep attacking and keep being aggressive.”
The Nets trailed for 65 seconds in the second half. They have trailed for just 3:20 in the second half during their home winning streak, which is the fourth longest in franchise history and the longest in eight years.
“I was just out there playing and kind of took what the defense gave me,” Williams said. “They made their run and we needed to make one back. So I had to be a big part of that but it could have been any one of us.”
On the next possession after Charlotte took the lead, Williams crossed over Kemba Walker for a layup that made it 85-84. After Walker missed a 3-pointer, Williams buried a 3-pointer and pumped his fist to put them up by four points. He followed that up by drawing an offensive foul on Walker that led to him making two free throws.
“Deron took control of the game and made plays on both ends,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought he did a great job tonight.”
Williams reached 20 points in consecutive games for the third time this season and capped his showing with another crossover on Walker for an 18-footer with 37.8 seconds remaining that made it 100-95.
Plays like that are what the Nets are used to seeing from Williams when he is confident and healthy. He was neither earlier this season, missing 16 games with ankle injuries and admitting to reporters his confidence had waned.
“I can’t answer it to where I know he feels great, but I think his play is speaking for that, on both ends,” Kidd said. “He’s making all the right basketball plays and he’s not settling. Maybe that’s because of his health and he feels good that he’s able to get into the paint.”
His teammates have noticed, two nights after joking about the point guard’s first dunk of the season.
“That’s the Deron we’re used to seeing,” Andray Blatche said. “His confidence is high and he’s playing great and carrying the team.”
“He has grown throughout the season as he’s gotten healthier,” Shaun Livingston said. “He has been playing his best basketball.”
Besides scoring, Williams had eight assists and three rebounds. The second board was the biggest one.
It came after Joe Johnson missed a 3-point attempt with 3:47 remaining. Williams grabbed the offensive rebound and fed Johnson who made it 92-87 with a running 10-footer.
Williams’ other big play is one that won’t appear in the box score but it was crucial. With about 2 1/2 minutes left, Williams drove to the hoop but as soon as he reached it, he was met by a double team, so instead of forcing a shot, he passed to Alan Anderson in the left corner.
Anderson swung the ball to Paul Pierce, who drained a 3-pointer from roughly the same spot as his game-winner on March 10 against Toronto, highlighting the trust factor that the Nets talked about afterward.
“One of the nice basketball plays I thought was seeing the ball start on the left box in a pick-and-roll and ending up in the right corner,” Kidd said. “Alan could have shot it but he passed it to Paul and Paul makes a big three for us. It’s just everyone touching the ball and everyone has trust and you could see that in the big moments of a game.”
“I think that’s key for us — the trust factor both offensively and defensively. I think that’s something we didn’t really have early on in the season and I feel that’s why we struggled a little bit and I feel now we trust each other,” Williams said. “We trust that if one of us gets beat, the next guy is going to have our back. It doesn’t happen every time but we know if it does, the next time it’s going to be there.”
Johnson added 20 points and Livingston added 17 points after making his first five shots. Blatche chipped in 13 points and Marcus Thornton contributed 11 points as the Nets improved to 25-10 in their last 35 games.