NEW YORK — John Wall saw Deron Williams standing near half court early in the third quarter of the Washington Wizards’ 95-78 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night and felt compelled to figure out what exactly was going on. Wall approached Williams, smiled and asked, “You ate your Wheaties or something?”
The point guards shared a laugh, but how Williams made his first eight three-pointers and set an NBA record for three-pointers in a half (nine) was beyond explanation.
Williams finished with a career-high 11 threes — coming one shy of the all-time mark shared by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall — and the Wizards could only pay their respects to the one-time all-star and be grateful that he cooled off in the second half.
“Just a hell of a shooting display,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “He got hot. Don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like that before in the first half.”
Williams scored a game-high 42 points and made sure that the Wizards’ first regular season visit to Barclays Center was memorable on a night when Washington couldn’t hit shots nor defend the only player on the court who was on target from long distance.
The Wizards (19-41) tried to defend Williams with Wall, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and Chris Singleton but when they started defending the three-point arc, Williams zipped past them for layups and floaters.
Williams outscored the Wizards, 23-14, in the first quarter and matched their first-half total with 33 as the Nets entered the locker room with a 26-point lead.
Williams pushed the Nets ahead, 62-35, when he buried his 10th three-pointer early in the third quarter.
“That’s what he was an all-star before for,” said Wall, who scored a team-high 16 points on just 6 of 19 shooting. “He basically controlled the game and that’s why they won. I mean, if he’s hitting threes and you’re not scoring, three points add up quicker than two. It’s tough to get through that.”
Williams opened his barrage by taking a pass from Gerald Wallace and knocking down a three-pointer from the left side of the arc over Webster. Next trip, he took a few dribbles and hit another on the right side as Ariza flew by.
Feeling good about himself, Williams hit a “why-not?” pull-up three-pointer over Wall, forcing Wittman to call a timeout as fans started to chant, “Brook-lyn! Brook-lyn!”
Nene (11 points) was the only other Wizards starter to score in double figures. Kevin Seraphin added 11 and A.J. Price had 10 as the Wizards played without rookie Bradley Beal, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. The Wizards are 2-7 without Beal, but it’s unlikely his presence would’ve slowed Williams.
Williams had been battling ankle injuries for much of the first half of the season, but he was feeling lighter and more refreshed after receiving cortisone and platelet-rich plasma injections in both ankles before the all-star break, and then completing a three-day juice cleanse. On Friday night, he was unstoppable, making 11 of 16 from long range.
“I definitely got hot,” Williams said. “It’s just one of those games where you come out and hit a couple of shots and you start feeling good and you just keep doing it.”
After Williams made his first three three-pointers, the Wizards then inexplicably left him open at the top of the key. He hit another three-pointer, leaned over, and held three fingers as he ran down the court and gave the Nets a 16-0 lead. Nene finally ended the scoreless drought with a layup, then came Williams three-pointer No. 5, then No. 6 as his teammates, already standing in anticipation, hooted and danced along the bench with a 22-2 lead.
Williams entered the game with seven three-pointers in the first three games of the month; he had seven with four minutes left in the first quarter, giving his team a 31-9 lead. He sat 90 seconds later and when he returned, with 7:17 left in the second period, the Wizards had yet to match his scoring output and trailed, 43-21.
Williams shook Webster with a crossover dribble, stepped back and missed but he ended the half with the record-breaker.
Williams was the only player on either team to make more than one three-pointer as the other 11 players combined to go 5-for-27.
After surrendering a season-high 38 points in the first quarter, the Wizards settled into being the defensive team they have been most of the season and limited Brooklyn to 57 points in the final three quarters.
They rallied to make the game somewhat respectable, getting within 13 early in the fourth, but they have lost five of their past six on the road.
Reserve Garrett Temple latched onto Williams and the Wizards limited him to just nine points in the second half. “When you’re hot, doesn’t matter where you’re shooting the ball from. He had a rhythm,” Webster said. “Ultimately, what we wanted to do is what we did in the second half and I’m just glad we shut off his water.”
By then, it was too late. Wittman picked up a technical foul early in the third quarter, but proved to have a sense of humor late in the game, when he decided to intentionally foul Nets power forward Reggie Evans and send him to the free throw line. Evans missed 9 of his 12 free throw attempts, including an airball, but with the crowd chanting his name, he hit two straight and Nets Coach P.J. Carlesimo pulled him to a standing ovation.
Evans finished with 24 rebounds and 11 points. “It was crazy,” Price said of Evans. “He definitely had support. But I mean, he’s a beast. He quietly controlled the game. The few times that Deron did miss a shot, he was there to get the offensive rebound.”