The Nets' 98-million man was bouncing all over Barclays Center's herringbone-patterned floor as if he had springs in his sneakers, making plays that had their billion-dollar arena as loud as it's been in the three seasons that they've called Brooklyn home.
Deron Williams, the guy coach Lionel Hollins staunchly defended a day earlier by lashing out at the point guard's critics, rediscovered his All-Star form. He made highlight-reel moves, showing no ill effects of the bruised tailbone and right quadriceps injury suffered Saturday. It was a welcome sight for the Nets, given Williams' well-chronicled struggles, and surely couldn't have come at a better time.
With the buzzards circling, Williams had a game for the ages and showed it's not time to shovel dirt on his career just yet. He was aggressive from the opening tip, tying his playoff career high with 35 points and leading the eighth-seeded Nets to a 120-115 overtime victory over the top-seeded Hawks.
Brook Lopez added 26 points and 10 rebounds as the Nets tied their Eastern Conference first-round series at 2-2. Game 5 is at Philips Arena in Atlanta Wednesday night.
"It was definitely a big game for us," said Williams, whose seven three-pointers (in 11 attempts) set a Nets playoff record. "It was an important game. We really needed to get this one to stay in this series, so this was definitely one of my better games this year and probably as a Net."
These kind of outings have been rare for Williams in his three seasons with the Nets. There have been flashes, but they weren't sustained. But he left his fingerprints all over this one.
Williams scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, two on a pair of free throws that put the Nets ahead 118-113 with 20 seconds remaining. He also swished a desperation 27-foot three-pointer with the shot clock about to expire to give the Nets a 102-101 lead with 1:53 left in the fourth.
Williams made Hollins look like a genius for blasting the critics less than 24 hours earlier.
"It's very satisfying," Hollins said. "The kid has overcome a lot of adversity. He's had a lot of adversity with the injuries and the negativity around his name. For him to come out showed a lot of character to put up a performance like that, especially when we needed it, because without that performance, I don't know if we get out of here with a win.
"But I'll take it, and I'm excited about him and I'm excited about how the team rallied around him as well. And that's what this is about. And I thought it was a huge, huge step in unity for our ballclub."
Bojan Bogdanovic's three-pointer with 1:25 left in overtime put the Nets ahead for good at 114-113. They grabbed a three-point lead on Thaddeus Young's layup, and after Kyle Korver missed a potential tying three-pointer with 21 seconds left, Williams collected the rebound to help seal it.
"I've had a lot of support the last couple of days," Williams said, "things that have been said, not only from my teammates but other people in my life. Jarrett [Jack] talked to me a lot about being aggressive and just keeping my head up. I do have a tendency to get down on myself pretty hard, pretty quick. So he told me I was due for one and the law of averages, he said, was going to work itself out.
"I know Joe defended me yesterday as well. So all these things, they mean a lot coming from your teammates, having that support. It definitely means a lot. It definitely fueled me tonight."