Despite their reputation as lottery-bound former knuckleheads, the Washington Wizards are actually a very formidable defensive team – ranking sixth out of 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency entering Friday night. And despite his reputation as an all-around offensive marvel, Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams entered Friday shooting right around the league average on three-pointers, the first time he’s hit that mark since the 2009-10 season.
This is why it was remarkable to watch Deron hit the mark, over and over again, from three-point land on Friday night. Williams broke the NBA’s record for most three-pointers in a half with nine, missing just two times as he led his Nets to a blowout lead over Washington that it would not relinquish. Williams and the Nets held on to beat Washington by a 95-78 score, and though D-Will fell short of the all time NBA record of 12 three-pointers in a contest (held by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall), he still notched 11 of those bombs in almost 38 minutes of play on 16 attempts, finishing with 42 points. Watch:
The previous mark for three-pointers nailed in a half, eight, was shared by Bryant, Tim Thomas, Michael Redd, Ray Allen, and Tracy McGrady – so it was nice of Williams to save a few trees when it came time every year for the NBA to print out its all-time record holders. Deron hit 12-16 shots overall in that first half, and probably would have had an easier time working toward Bryant and Marshall’s record of 12 had Washington not (smartly, if tediously) not attempted a hack-a-Reggie Evans strategy on the poor-shooting Brooklyn Nets forward.
Evans, a 50 percent free throw shooter entering the night, missed 11 of 16 freebies, but was given rapturous Brooklyn applause whenever one of his attempts went down. Applause that -- and even Williams admitted as much after the contest -- rivaled the noise made when Deron set his record in the first half.
The performance was a needed bit of good news for a Brooklyn Nets team struggling through what could be characterized as a disappointing first season in the city. The team’s home opener at the new Barclays Center was delayed after Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast, the players were embarrassed in a Christmas Day blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, original coach Avery Johnson was let go soon after, and interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo has been given no indication as to his future, despite a 22-12 run following his move to the front of the coaching line.
On top of that, the team boasts one of the highest payrolls in the NBA for just the fourth-best record in the East, mostly filled with contracts (for Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and the since-benched Kris Humphries) for players acquired to retain the interest of Deron Williams, who was an unrestricted free agent last July. Williams signed a maximum contract with the Nets as a result of those moves, but he didn’t even make the All-Star team in 2013; even on a depleted team with point guards Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo missing the game due to injury.
Perhaps this is the turnaround. With this outburst, Williams is now up to a respectable 38.4 percent from behind the arc, and the team is now just 2.5 games in back of the ailing New York Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead. For Brooklyn fans that waited years for the Nets to cross the river and into the borough, all before sitting through 61 frustrating contests before tonight’s win, this was a welcome sight.
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