The Nets' $98-million man was bouncing all over Barclays Center's herringbone-patterned floor, making plays that had their billion-dollar arena as loud as it's been in the three seasons they've called Brooklyn home.
Deron Williams, the player who Nets coach Lionel Hollins said had been depicted as a "pariah" because of his well-chronicled struggles and ensuing criticism, rediscovered his All-Star form Monday night and again was making highlight-reel moves. It felt like the green roof being installed on top of the edifice was about to blow off, particularly when Williams drained a desperation three-pointer to put the Nets ahead by a point with just under two minutes left in regulation.
Even when Williams missed an 8-foot turnaround jumper with 6.5 seconds left in regulation that could have won it, there was something different about the aura in the arena, and the Nets didn't disappoint the sellout crowd of 17,732. Williams drained a pair of free throws with 20.2 seconds remaining in overtime to help the eighth-seeded Nets edge the top-seeded Hawks, 120-115, and even their Eastern Conference first-round series at 2-2, it had to feel like a burden was off his shoulders.
He certainly should be more confident going into Game 5 at Philips Arena in Atlanta Wednesday night.
Williams scored a playoff career-high 35 points and Brook Lopez added 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets. Joe Johnson had 17 points and Bojan Bogdanovic 15.
DeMarre Carroll paced the Hawks with 20 points and nine rebounds. The Hawks outrebounded the Nets 55-40, but had 16 turnovers to the Nets' nine.
Williams hit a 30-foot three-pointer with the shot clock about to expire to put the Nets ahead at 102-101 and Lopez's bucket catapulted them to a 104-101 edge.
But Atlanta erased that deficit, punctuated when Paul Millsap drove easily past Bogdanovic for a dunk on the ensuing possession to tie it at 104, putting Williams in position to truly be the hero with 16.4 seconds left in regulation.
But he inexplicably took a quick shot and it caromed off the rim with 6.5 seconds remaining, leaving the Hawks with one final gasp.
However, following a timeout, Millsap lost the ball and couldn't get a shot off, forcing the extra session.
Atlanta consistently outworked the Nets in the hustle categories, leading to a flurry of extra opportunities and possessions, and that really kept the Hawks in it. Atlanta, which scored on 13 of its first 16 possessions of the third quarter and went 11-for-15 from the floor, racked up 20 second-chance points and clobbered the Nets on the glass, collecting 18 offensive rebounds.
Perhaps sensing the urgency and the obvious need to snap out of the serious shooting funk that had him averaging just six points and hitting 26.9 percent of his attempts, Williams left his fingerprints on things early. Though he took another one of his usual hard spills, this time in the first quarter, Williams dusted himself off and ignited an 18-3 run that propelled the Nets to their largest lead of the game at 32-24.
Williams posted 11 points in the first quarter, nailing 4 of 7 shots and going 3-for-4 beyond the arc. He put Carroll in a blender in the second quarter, shaking him out of his red and blue Nikes for an easy layup, much to the delight of the sellout crowd.
But even with Williams engineering the attack efficiently and breathing life into the Nets in a way that he hadn't all series, they still found themselves in a hole at the outset of the third quarter.
Atlanta closed the half with a 14-4 burst to grab a 51-45 advantage, which wasn't exactly a good sign for the Nets given the team that's been ahead at halftime in the series' first three games emerged victorious.