Williams, in his first game as Kidd’s temporary replacement at point guard, combined with Richard Jefferson for New Jersey’s first 10 points of overtime, and the Nets beat the Chicago Bulls 110-102 on Wednesday night.
Williams scored a season-best 25 points and had a key steal in overtime. Jefferson finished with 24 points and added a big blocked shot in the extra session. Both players had six points in overtime.
“There has never been anyone in the locker room who did not have confidence in Marcus,” Jefferson said. “You look at who he played behind and the tough spot he’s been in. No one was surprised. He did a good job on the defensive end, too.”
Vince Carter led the Nets with a season-high 33 points, then left with 6.6 seconds left in overtime after his hamstring cramped up. By then, Williams and Jefferson had dominated the extra period on both ends of the floor, helping the Nets to their 13th straight home victory over the Bulls.
The Nets traded Kidd, who led them to two NBA finals appearances, along with Antoine Wright and Malik Allen to Dallas for five players, two first-round picks and cash. With Harris, the centerpiece of the deal from New Jersey’s end, unavailable for perhaps two more weeks with a sprained left ankle, Williams will get a chance to run the team for a while.
“It felt good to go out there and not have to look over your shoulder after every mistake you make,” Williams said. “With Jason there, you make a mistake and you probably come out. You know now that the coaches and your teammates have confidence in you.”
Trenton Hassell, DeSagana Diop and Maurice Ager all made their Nets debuts, with Hassell coming up with a key steal with just over a minute left in regulation. Keith Van Horn, who hasn’t played since the end of the 2005-06 season, met with coach Lawrence Frank earlier Wednesday but may not play at all for the Nets.
Carter said it was “weird” playing without Kidd, but the Nets didn’t dwell on it.
“I think we put that behind us yesterday,” he said. “It was now how are we going to get a win.”
Neither team led by more than four points over the final 9 minutes of regulation. Smith was wide open for a dunk that gave Chicago a 94-93 lead with 52 seconds left, and Carter hit a free throw 3 seconds later to tie it. After a Bulls turnover, Carter missed a jumper, but the Nets’ scrambling defense kept the Bulls from getting off a tying shot.
“We had our chances down the stretch,” Chicago coach Jim Boylan said. “There were a couple of opportunities that slipped away from us.”
Williams and Jefferson had buckets early in overtime, and the Nets never trailed in those 5 minutes. Williams finished 9-of-18 from the field and made three 3-pointers.
“He’s a really good passer and he’s a better scorer than most people think he is,” said Gordon, who played with Williams at Connecticut. “So I think he’ll be fine.”
Jefferson scored 14 points in the first half and Carter had 13, including a running 3-pointer that beat the buzzer and gave the Nets a 51-44 lead at the break.
The Bulls were wearing warmup shirts reading “NIU Huskies” to honor the five victims of the shooting on the Northern Illinois campus last Thursday. The Bulls plan to wear the shirts again Friday at home against Denver. … Though the Bulls have been mentioned in trade rumors going all the way back to the preseason, interim coach Jim Boylan didn’t expect a deal before Thursday’s deadline. “I’m fairly confident that this will be our team going forward,” he said, before adding “very” as a replacement for “fairly.” … Frank said he expected Jefferson and Carter to assume more of a leadership role, but hadn’t thought yet about choosing either to replace Kidd as captain.