Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — If C.J. Miles or Raja Bell could make a jump shot on Wednesday night, Deron Williams might have set a new NBA single-game assist record.
That's what Williams told Miles and Bell anyway — jokingly — late in the Jazz's 110-88 win over the Indiana Pacers. The last few minutes of the game, usually reserved for stirring comebacks by Utah this season, instead were light-hearted moments as it wound down.
"I was just messing with them," Williams said. "I'm the first person to tell them to shoot. I always tell them all game to keep shooting. That was after the fact."
Another fact, by any type of measurement — wins, points or assists — is that Williams is playing some of the best basketball of his career. He scored 24 points, dished 16 assists and committed no turnovers in Utah's victory. It was the second time in his career that he had 16 assists and no turnovers in the same game. It was the third time in his career that he had at least 15 assists and no turnovers in the same game.
Williams acknowledged that it was one of the best games he's played.
"Yeah, because I didn't have any turnovers — finally," he said. "I've been turning over the ball like an apple turnover. I've been waiting for a zero-turnover game."
It was just the latest in a strong stretch of games for the All-star point guard. He is shooting 62 percent in Utah's last five games. In the last eight days, he's had 22 points and 10 assists against the Bucks, 26 points and nine assists against the Clippers, 29 points and 12 assists against the Lakers and 26 points, 11 assists and five steals against the Hornets.
"Deron's playing terrific," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "This stretch is probably as well as I have seen him play. He has just had some tremendous games for us, almost like you expect every one of them to be that way."
Williams took charge against the Pacers from the outset and kept the pressure on a team that was on a four-game road winning streak. He had a double-double before halftime with 12 points and 10 assists. He scored seven points during a 9-0 run to close the third quarter that put Utah up, 85-68.
"As he goes, we go," said Bell. "We need him to be out there and be aggressive like that. When he's scoring the ball, it's great and when opportunities for us present themselves we trust that he'll deliver the ball, which he does. You just try to make them (shots)."
Williams had no trouble knocking down shots of his own against Indiana. He was 9-for-9 in two-point attempts. He did, however, miss five 3-point attempts.
"It's up there with all the rest of them," Miles said of Williams' performance. "He did what he does — scores when given opportunities, and he takes the game apart when they double team him or whatever may be. That's what great players do."
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said before the game that he'd prefer to face Williams off the ball rather than seeing him play the point. He didn't really get his wish, as Williams had the ball in his hands for much of the night.
"He's brutal," O'Brien said. "He's strong. He's quick. He's smart. It doesn't matter who is on him in the league. That's why many people consider him the best point guard, if not one of the (league's) best three point guards."
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