It was during a miserable first half Wednesday, but something clicked inside of Deron Williams in the Utah Jazz's Game 2 loss.
The Jazz now only trail the Lakers 2-1 after Friday night's 104-99 win at EnergySolutions Arena in part because it the light, his mojo, Williams' shot, the point guard's energy, you name it kept on clicking through Game 3.
"I was still a little bit reluctant in the first quarter of the second game, and then I realized I need to assert myself on the game if we were to have a chance to win," Williams said. "And I think that's what I did today in that first quarter. ...
"I think guys feed off of my energy."
After the Lakers jumped to a 6-0 lead, that is. From there, the second-team All-NBA player really started clicking and helped his teammates do the same. He hit a 3-pointer, made a couple of strong drives inside and directed traffic on offense, finishing the quarter with seven points, four assists and the important game's early momentum.
Williams continued his strong play for nearly 42 minutes complementing the other half of Jazz's pick-and-roll combo, Carlos Boozer, who had a huge night of 27 points and 20 rebounds to help Utah claw its way back into this Western Conference semifinal.
Coming off his 22-point second half of Game 2, the third-year pro finished Game 3 with 18 points and 12 assists despite also finishing with a bruised and sore right hand and wrist.
Williams especially picked apart the Lakers with power drives, efficient passing and hustle plays in the first and fourth quarters when L.A. guard Derek Fisher sat on the bench, at first with foul problems and then for a breather.
Williams probably even got a bigger cheer than national-anthem-singing David Archuleta with about nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. He scrambled for a loose ball and then hit a jump shot to give the Jazz a commanding 86-74 lead.
He credited Ronnie Price for setting the hustling tone in the second quarter after his backup dove for a pair of loose balls.
"I felt they outhustled us the two games at their place and so we wanted to try to come out and get our intensity back, get our energy back and get those hustle plays," Williams said. "That's a big part of games. It gets the crowd into it. It gets your teammates involved. It gets everybody up and ready."
Though Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Williams "always seems poised," Utah's point guard seemed especially in control and collected Friday compared to his 5-for-18 shooting performance in Game 1 and his three-point first-half showing in Game 2.
"He is a great poised guard," Sloan said. "I feel very comfortable with the basketball in his hands and the decisions he makes. For a younger player, I think he's done a terrific job."
Williams looked like he'd gone a full 10 rounds after Friday's game with a couple of welts and a big pack of ice wrapped around his wrist. He was hurt when he went down hard after getting hit by Laker big man Ronny Turiaf in the second quarter.
"It definitely affected me. One time I missed a shot and slapped my hands together, which was not very bright," Williams said. "I just landed it on it wrong. X-rays are negative, so I'm good to go."
So, too, now are the Jazz after handing the Lakers their first playoff loss.
"It just gives us a lot of confidence. We got that first one. Now we know we can beat this team," Williams said. "We felt all along we could beat this team, now we know and we've just got to put together another solid victory the next game."
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