Deron Williams didn't believe he deviated much from the way he operated in Game 2, but his body language as he spoke about how the Nets climbed back into the series suggested otherwise.
After going scoreless two nights earlier, Williams had a bigger impact in the Nets' 104-90 victory over the Heat in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday night. Although he shot just 3-for-11 and had only nine points, he had 11 assists and consistently found his teammates with solid ball movement, making it difficult for Miami's defense to lock in on anyone.
"The way they are playing me with two on the ball and coming up at me, I need to make the right plays and get people the ball,'' he said. "I think I did that. I tried to attack a little bit more and get to the basket, but I just did not convert."
Kevin Garnett liked what he saw out of Williams. "I thought Deron played great," he said. "He showed a lot of character, a lot of grit. I thought he led us and he got guys easy shots. We are going to need that. It's huge. I told him after Game 2, 'You're not going to play great every night, but you bring so many different dimensions to the game, so lean on that.'
"I try to be a confident teammate for him, give him confidence and fuel him and just let him know that it's not the end of the world, not to be hard on yourself. I told him to enjoy Mother's Day."
Emotions flared early in the third quarter when the Heat's Ray Allen got mixed up with Alan Anderson. Miami was on offense and trailing 85-67 when they became intertwined, and Allen crashed to the floor as if he were trying to sell a foul on Anderson. The play was reviewed, double technical fouls were called and that was basically the end of it.
"Just got tangled up," Anderson said. "I know he was trying to come off staggered and I was just trying to be on his body to not give him any air space because that's all he needs is one second."
On the way to scoring 19 points, Joe Johnson nailed five three-pointers, marking the fourth time he's done it in his career and first since May 2, 2011, when he was with the Hawks. Johnson also had six assists, which were the most he's posted since 2010.
"Joe is a good player, a great player, actually," LeBron James said. "He's a big load. He's a matchup problem for a lot of defenses and he makes tough, contested shots . . . He's an unbelievable player. He plays at his own tempo, can't speed up. He's a big body, too, as well, so he can get physical with us as well. Really a solid, great player in our league.''
Kidd on LeBron
Jason Kidd paused briefly, partly for effect and also to give himself a few more seconds to dip into his 41-year-old memory bank.
Someone had asked the Nets' coach to compare James' current repertoire in the low post to how the Heat superstar operated on the blocks in 2010-11, the last time Miami lost a playoff series.
"I've got to think,'' Kidd said. "That's a long time ago.''
Driven to excel, James has focused on improving different aspects of his game in each offseason. He worked on his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon during the summer of 2011 after losing in the Finals to Kidd and the Mavericks. That made James even more difficult to guard, as the Nets are witnessing in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
"LeBron, I mean, he has the total package,'' Kidd said. "It's a matter of where they place him. In Cleveland, they had him on the perimeter, and also in Miami early, they had him on the perimeter. But he can post at any time.
"His IQ is extremely high. He's one of, if not the best, player on the planet. So what they've done is put him in the post, move him out on different spots of the floor.''
James said he spoke with buddy Johnny Manziel after the Browns drafted the quarterback but added that they didn't chat about the city James spurned in 2010. "No, he didn't ask me about Cleveland,'' he said. "He's excited about the opportunity . . . And I think he could be really good.''