If Brooklyn needed any more proof that Deron Williams is at the heart of everything the Nets do — good and bad — this series is it.
See if you can identify which games the Nets won or lost:
A. Williams: 4 of 12 for 10 points.
B. Williams: 8 of 20 for 24 points.
C. Williams: 5 of 15 for 15 points.
D. Williams: 7 of 14 for 22 points.
“B” and “D” are Games 1 and 3 of this first round series against the Toronto Raptors, both of which the Nets won. “A” and “C” are Games 4 and 2 of the series, which went Toronto’s way.
In those two wins, D-Will shot 44 percent from the field and averaged 23 points a game. In the two losses, he shot 33 percent for 12.5 points.
Those are huge differences, and reflect the two different D-Wills that Brooklyn fans have come to know. One is the early-season, sluggish-out-of-the-gate, washed-up-and-fading-from-relevance, once-upon-a-time-All Star who seems too hobbled by injury to recapture his former greatness.
The other is the rim-attacking, defender-bullying, game-pace-dominating, fresh-off-plasma-injections-in-his-ankles franchise player who looks rejuvenated and ready to remind everybody why he was once discussed as the best player in the league at his position.
Just like last year, Williams took time off halfway through this season to get those plasma injections in his ankles, and looked like the better D-Will for much of the second half of the season.
But where last year he maintained that momentum throughout Brooklyn’s seven-game playoff series with the Chicago Bulls, right now he looks perilously close to letting the lesser D-Will become his 2014 postseason persona.
If the Nets want to pull out this series against the Raptors and make a real run at a title, they’re going to need the right version of Deron Williams to help lead them there.
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.