After Game 3, a somewhat somber and sore Deron Williams told reporters he watched his guys "close the game out."
There's something wrong with that statement. Deron Williams, former franchise leader, should not be watching his guys ‘close games out.'
Less than a week ago, Deron Williams looked lost after a 2-point, 1-for-7 night that ended with him missing a wide open shot that would've tied the game with 10.9 seconds remaining.
The entire basketball world was against him. Amid Paul Pierce's infamous comments pertaining to Williams' mental toughness, to more brutal comments from Reggie Miller, Isiah Thomas and Rick Fox, you almost felt bad for D-Will and his notorious downfall.
A few days later, Williams expressed his frustration when he angrily stared into the eyes of Mike Mazzeo following a question regarding to Williams' mindset on his Game 2 performance
That wasn't the case after Monday's Game 4 win over Atlanta, which knotted the series at two apiece.
Mazzeo asked the same question after Deron Williams practically saved the Nets' season with a 35-point performance. The smiling Williams answered in a much happier tone.
"I definitely played better tonight, Williams said on the podium. "I also want to keep being aggressive like this throughout the series. We evened it out. We're playing better as a team. We're figuring things out, so I just need to keep being aggressive like this."
Aggressive he was. Williams dropped 35 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Is it a coincidence that he performed this way just a day after his coach praised Deron and accused media of being too harsh on him?
"From a playing perspective, he's played well," Hollins said ahead of the Nets trying to even their best-of-seven series at two games apiece in Game 4 on Monday night in Brooklyn. "Would he like to shoot better? Yes. Would we like him to shoot better? Yes. But he's played extremely well. He's gotten us off to great starts with his pace, he's made passes... When you get seven, eight assists in a game and eight-to-10 rebounds, you're doing a lot of stuff right.
Hollins continued his coaching psychology.
"I'm disappointed in how everybody is coming down on Deron and trying to treat him like he's a pariah. Deron is a good person, he's a good player. Now, is he on the level you guys think he should be? That's your fault for thinking that somebody should be something."
Williams appreciated his coach having his back.
"I thanked him [Lionel Hollins] today after the game," D-Will said. "It means a lot when you're struggling like that and your coach comes out and defends you the way he did. It means a lot. Says a lot about him and how much he cares about not only me, but this team and our players."
Williams averaged six points per game in Games 1,2, and 3. His 35 points Monday night was nearly double what he combined for in the first three games. A little coaching psychology from coach Hollins proved to be right again. Similar to his early season ‘tough love' talks of Lopez among the media, later proving to have toughened Brook up. It's brought the best out of the big fella.
Williams was said to be dealing with "severe tendinitis". After Hollins' words to boost his confidence, Williams began to look like his old self.
"He played great," said former teammate & friend Kyle Korver on Williams. "I played with Deron in Utah for a few years and that's the Deron I remember. You know, that's what he's capable of. He hit some really amazing shots, and you've got to give him credit.'
That, he did.
The Nets were in the midst of making a big comeback when Williams scored eight straight points to cap off an incredible 16-3 run.
Williams scored his fifth point after the Nets were running in transition and Williams was screaming for the ball behind the 3-point like. Williams' shot was silky smooth and the Nets had finally taken control. The Barclays crowd was exuberant.
Later in the fourth, it was heat check time. The Nets trailed by two with less than two minutes remaining. With the shot clock expiring, D-Will -from a few feet beyond the arc - turned around and drained a miraculous 3-pointer. It was his seventh of the night and it set a franchise record for most three-pointers by a single player in a post-season game.
This was his night. And to contradict the Game 2 theme, Deron Williams stepped up in the big moment - a season-saving game.
"For him to come out, it showed a lot of character to put on the performance like that, especially when we needed it," Hollins said. Because without that performance, I don't know if we get out of here with a win."
After all, if there's a D-(Will), there's a way. And this team will only go as far as number 8 takes them.