Posted February 28, 2013 on AP on Fox
Deron Williams chose to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets last offseason, passing on a chance to join his hometown Dallas Mavericks. While the point guard's numbers are down compared to years past, he was at his best during Brooklyn's last game. With Joe Johnson hoping to return from injury, Williams tries to build on his latest effort as the Nets host the slumping Mavericks on Friday night. After considering bolting for Dallas, Williams instead agreed to stay with the Nets, signing a five-year, $98 million deal in July. The Mavericks could only offer four years and about $75 million under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement. The Nets (34-24) sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but Williams is averaging just 17.3 points - his lowest mark in six seasons. His 7.7 assists per game are his fewest since posting 4.5 as a rookie for Utah in 2005-06. Williams, though, came up huge Tuesday in a 101-97 win at New Orleans. He scored the team's final 11 points over the last 1:24, finishing with a season high-tying 33 to go along with eight assists. "It feels good to get it going, especially down the stretch and be able to close out a game," said Williams, who continues to play though inflammation in his ankles. "It's something I've kind of struggled with this year and I was really successful at it most of my career, so it feels good to be able to finally have a game like that." Williams went 9 for 10 from the free-throw line, making all six attempts over the final 18.7 seconds. The Nets are 22-7 when he makes at least four free throws. "He played a great game. That's why he's an All-Star," interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "When he plays like that, we are hard to beat." Williams may not need to carry as big a load Friday if Johnson suits up. The veteran swingman, averaging 17.0 points, has missed the last three games due to a sore left heel. The Nets had lost five straight and 19 of 22 to the Mavericks before pulling out a 93-92 road win Feb. 28, 2012. Brook Lopez scored 38 points that night while Williams had 12 assists, although he was just 3 of 15 from the field. Dallas (25-32) is coming off its third consecutive loss, 90-84 at Memphis on Wednesday. The Mavericks led by as many as 25 points in the second quarter before the Grizzlies went on a 36-4 run spanning halftime. Dallas managed just five points in the third, its fewest in a period since setting an NBA record with two in the third quarter of an 87-80 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on April 6, 1997. The Mavericks were outrebounded 46-34 while allowing 23 points off 21 turnovers Wednesday. O.J. Mayo had five and Darren Collison four as Dallas dropped to 6-22 when committing at least 14 turnovers. "It's another tough lesson in a season full of tough lessons," coach Rick Carlisle told the league's official website. "Our guards have to understand when they see that kind of pressure that they have to attack it right away. We've got to do more to help them." More production from Mayo also could prove key. Mayo is averaging 12.3 points - 5.1 below his team-leading mark - on 38.9 percent shooting over the last three games. The Mavericks are 16-9 when he scores at least 19 points compared to 9-23 when he has 18 or fewer. Dirk Nowitzki entered Wednesday having averaged 25.3 points and 13.3 rebounds over a three-game stretch before posting 10 and four versus Memphis.
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