For nine consecutive games, the Nets had missed the point. That was their point guard, Deron Williams.
Tuesday night Williams gave them points and something just as important -- leadership during crunch time of their 104-96 win over the Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center.
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Williams returned from a three-week layoff for a sprained left ankle. With one practice under his belt, he looked in midseason form. Williams scored a team-high 25 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed three rebounds as the Nets won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
"It was huge," said Paul Pierce, who returned from a hand injury. "We are a different team with him out there, the way he creates offense for others, the way he creates offense for himself. He's the head of the snake. He's one of the most important pieces of what we are trying to do here . . . and trying to win a championship."
Williams admitted he wasn't sure how well he would play.
"The ankle was a little sore, a little tender, but I still felt like I needed to play," he said. "We don't have many practices. I felt good enough to play. I wasn't really sure. I was a little surprised."
Williams thought coach Jason Kidd was going to limit his time, but he played 37 minutes.
"I thought I was on restriction," Williams said. "When he put me in with 10 minutes to go in the fourth, I guess it was off."
Williams' key moments came during a 10-0 run that turned a 60-60 game into a 70-60 advantage. He hit a driving layup to give the Nets a 62-60 lead they never relinquished.
After a Boston miss, Williams assisted on Kevin Garnett's basket before sinking a bucket from deep in the left corner. And for good measure, Williams fired home a three-pointer for an 81-68 advantage.
After the Celtics moved within eight in the fourth, Williams put away another jumper for a 96-86 lead with 3:04 remaining.
"It was just a good team victory," Williams said. "It seemed that our energy level was a lot better. More intensity on both ends of the floor. That's what we have to do every night."