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Williams' late-game heroics lift Nets past Hornets

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- After struggling in the final 30 seconds of a close loss to Memphis on Sunday, Deron Williams decided it was time for him to take command down the stretch for the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets point guard did that and more Tuesday night in a 101-97 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena. Williams scored 20 of his game-high 33 points in the first half and nailed a decisive 3-pointer from the left wing as part of an 11-point offensive flurry in the final 1:24 to help Brooklyn snap a two-game losing streak.

"It felt good to get going, especially down the stretch, and to be able to close out a game," said Williams, who in addition to his long-range jumper added an 18-footer and six free throws for the Nets' final 11 points. "That's something I've kind of struggled with this year, and I was really successful at it most of my career. It feels good to be able to finally have a game like that."

The Nets (34-24) relied on Williams' late-game heroics because they were missing their offensive focal point -- guard Joe Johnson -- who sat out his third consecutive game with plantar fasciitis in his left heel. It looked as though Johnson might be able to go, but he remained on the bench.

"We definitely miss Joe out there, and we thought he was going to go until right before the game," Williams said. "I just wanted to be there for my team and try to step up."

The Nets led by as many as 22 points in the first half based on torrid 62 percent shooting, but New Orleans closed within 86-82 with 4:01 left on a drive by Greivis Vasquez, who had a team-high 20 points for the Hornets (20-38).

With Brooklyn leading 90-84, Williams nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Nets up 93-84, and then he touched the ball on every possession down the stretch. In the Nets' 76-72 loss to Memphis, Williams scored 24 points but had his layup blocked and threw the ball away in the final two possessions.

The Nets made 12 of 20 from 3-point range, including a perfect 3 of 3 by guard Keith Bogans in the fourth quarter. Bogans also had a huge offensive rebound on a close-in miss by center Brook Lopez that led to a Lopez drive. Bogans scored 12 points and had four rebounds, and Lopez out-dueled his twin brother Robin Lopez with 20 points and seven rebounds.

"Boges made three 3s, but the rebounds, especially the offensive rebound, was enormous," said Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo.

The Hornets used an 18-7 run in the first 7:53 of the third quarter to close the deficit to 66-59, but C.J. Watson responded with a driving layup and wide-open 3-pointers from the left baseline to pad the Brooklyn lead to 71-59.

During the run, Hornets rookie forward Anthony Davis got his arm tangled under the basket, and he left the game with an injury to his left shoulder. Davis stayed on the bench with an ice wrap and did not return, although the team said he was available.

Williams was playing with sore ankles and a sore right wrist, but he didn't seem fazed in the least by exploding for 20 first-half points as the Nets, who led by as many as 22 points, raced to a 57-41 lead at the break.

After the game, Williams had both ankles and his right wrist in an ice-water bath, and he was obviously in pain. Asked about taking cortisone shots to dull the pain, Williams said: "I'm really happy that you're concerned about my health, but I'm just going to talk about the game tonight -- and going forward."

In the first half, Williams made 7 of 11 from the floor, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. He gave Vasquez fits, driving at will and then spotting up for open jumpers. Williams did most of his damage in the first quarter, scoring 14 points and dishing out three assists.

Brook Lopez outscored Robin Lopez 20-14. In six head-to-head meetings, Robin Lopez has won four games.

"It's always fun," Brook Lopez said about playing against his brother. "He's always very physical and it's enjoyable. How many other people get to experience this? We didn't say a word to each other. We never do."

"I have been playing against him my whole life, so it's a little odd in the first few minutes," Robin Lopez said. "But it's nothing too crazy."

NOTES: Carlesimo is 20-10 since taking over for Avery Johnson, who was 14-14 before being fired. "More individuals are playing better," Carlesimo said. "We're playing more the way we played in November than the way we played in December. We were a pretty good team in December, and we got away from that. ... Carlesimo left open the possibility of more minutes down the stretch for veteran forward Jerry Stackhouse. "Stack strongly helped us win some games early in the year, and I think that potential is there, especially if we're fortunate enough to make the playoffs," Carlesimo said. "His experience becomes possibly even more valuable." ... New Orleans coach Monty Williams said his team can't afford to dig a 31-20 first-quarter hole as it did against the Nets. "That is unacceptable," Williams said. "I tell our guys all the time about the ability to approach the game the same way every time. It's a skill, and that is when you become a professional."
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