A few seconds remained in regulation of Game 4 the score tied after a furious Los Angeles Lakers' comeback and Deron Williams had the ball in his hands with a chance to be the hero for the Utah Jazz.
With Derek Fisher all over him, Williams dribbled, veered to his left and got off an awkward shot that was partially blocked by his former mentor. Airball. Overtime.
"I think I should have went right," Williams said. "I wish I could have that play over again."
Fortunately for the Jazz, Williams' wish list was pretty short Sunday. There were definitely a lot more sweet dishes including a pair of alley-oop lobs to Ronnie Brewer than wishes. The Jazz point guard racked up 14 assists and scored 29 points on 9-for-13 shooting in a clutch performance that sparked Utah to a 123-115 Western Conference semifinal-tying victory.
Three of Williams' assists came in the overtime session a pair to Mehmet Okur for long jumpers and an on-target bounce pass to Andrei Kirilenko for a Laker-back-breaking reverse dunk and
free throw as the Jazz pulled away from Los Angeles for good.
Williams also hit four free throws to end up going 8-for-8 from the charity stripe to ice the Mother's Day victory at EnergySolutions Arena.
Both the farmer and the coach in Jerry Sloan are thoroughly enjoying watching the third-year NBA player blossom as a versatile playmaker and leader.
"He's just growing and growing and growing as a great player every day," Sloan said. "You don't have much coaching to do when he does the things he does."
Those "things" include passing when needed and scoring as necessary, and sometimes both.
With Carlos Boozer struggling (again) to find the hoop early, Williams aggressively took it upon himself and at the Lakers to get the Jazz's offense going in the first half. Williams took advantage of Fisher's early foul trouble (again) and punished Laker backup Jordan Farmar time and again, finishing with 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting in the first half.
Williams drilled three 3-pointers and scored 13 points in the second quarter alone.
"When I see guys struggling offensively that's when I try to get everybody involved," Williams said. "If we're struggling a little bit to score, I try to assert myself into the game."
It was a good thing he took that upon himself for the Jazz, because everybody else only hit 3 of 12 shots. That allowed L.A. to fight back for the first of several times and tie it after trailing by 11.
If Williams had another wish or two, he might have used it late in the fourth quarter. Getting caught up in screens and getting back to Fisher too late helped the ex-Jazz guard get and hit three wide-open looks from beyond the arc. Fisher's 10-point explosion in 1:14 gave the Lakers' new life and helped force the overtime.
"He just got hot at the end of the game," Williams said of Fisher.
Helping the Jazz not get too hot under the collar in this case after Okur was called for a technical foul with three minutes remaining was an assist Williams didn't get credit for in the boxscore. But Williams made sure they kept their cool.
He told his teammates, "We just have to stick together. We can't worry about the refs. You just got to let things go how they go, if they call a foul just keep playing."
And that, he said, is precisely what he and his teammates did after enduring the Lakers' rally.
"I think," Williams added, "we did a good job after that of staying composed, of keeping our poise and doing things we needed to do to win."
No offense to Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Tony Parker or Farmar, but as far as Ronnie Price is concerned there is no debate. The guy ahead of him on the Jazz's roster, Price believes strongly, is the best point guard in the NBA.
"All I can say is he's an All-Star," said Price, who also gave the Jazz a lift in his four-point, four-stitch outing. "Now I don't really think there's no point guard in the league that does the same type of things that he does on the court. He's fun to watch. Even better than that, he's on our team and not on the other team."I'm one of the biggest Deron Williams fans that there is out there."
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