SALT LAKE CITY — When his pass set up an Andrei Kirilenko layup in the third quarter Monday, Deron Williams earned an entry into some extremely exclusive groups of players who've dished out 3,000 assists.
Scoot over John Stockton, Karl Malone and Rickey Green, there's a new assists-cranking machine in your club.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, though, they needed a few more assists — or at least some more baskets, whether Williams-assisted or not — to come up victorious on the historic night.
Williams finished with 11 assists, upping his career-total to 3,003 dimes, but the monumental milestone came in another monumental meltdown.
As one could expect, Williams wasn't exactly in a celebratory mood after the Jazz blew a double-digit lead and became only the third road victim of the New Orleans Hornets in a 91-87 loss at EnergySolutions Arena.
"It's a great accomplishment," said Williams, only the fourth Jazzman to hit the milestone. "But what's so special about 3,000?"
The fact that only a select few have reached the level so quickly, for one thing.
Williams became the ninth-quickest NBA player to reach the mark and just the 10th guy in league history to get there in 350 games or less.
It only took Williams 342 games to surpass 3,000. That, by the way, is one game more than it took Stockton, the NBA's all-time assists leader who didn't become a full-time starter until his fourth season.
For Williams, however, the night was more "frustrating" than festive.
Even so, his coach believes it is a rather special milestone.
"I'm happy for him," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "That's a sign of a very good player that's on his way to greatness if he continues to work at it."
Even after the disappointing loss, Sloan took time to positively reflect on the steady play Williams has produced in his five-year career.
And the passing and playmaking of the point guard he calls a "terrific young player" weren't the only skills Sloan complimented.
"He's helped change this franchise back around where it's been competitive," Sloan said. "I think he has a terrific game. He's a very good defender. He does a lot of things to help you win, and he can shoot the ball."
Williams also showed that Monday, hitting 6 of 11 shots to finish with 17 points for his 15th double-double of the season.
Even with all that, the stat Williams might remember most on this night was the stat that got away.
With the Jazz trailing by four in the final minute, Williams came up with a steal and led a fast break with Kirilenko.
A bucket and a 12th assist would've trimmed the Hornets' surprising lead to two and given the Jazz momentum for the final 45 seconds.
One thing, however, stood in the way of Williams, Kirilenko and the basket.
A mighty big 6-foot guard named Chris Paul.
Williams' buddy, who hit the 3,000-assist mark in 304 games, quickly swiped the Jazz point guard's pass and then scored a layup with 27 seconds remaining to all but clinch New Orleans' unlikely victory.
"He made a great anticipation," admitted Williams, whose head-to-head record against Paul dropped to 11-3. "I should've threw it up to Andrei high. He's a lot taller than Chris.
"That's the play he's more able to make than on the ground like that," Williams added. "It was a bad pass by me."
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