The Dallas Mavericks found out firsthand what they missed out on last summer when they failed to sign then-free agent point guard Deron Williams.
Williams poured in 26 of his 31 points in the second half Wednesday night and the Brooklyn Nets put a huge dent in the Mavs’ playoff chances as they rolled to a 113-96 victory at American Airlines Center.
With just 14 games remaining, the Mavs are 32-36 as their playoff chances get dimmer and dimmer .
The Mavs were engaged in a heated battle with the Nets for Williams’ services last summer when he became a free agent. Williams, who grew up in The Colony, north of Dallas, ultimately signed a five-year, $98 million contract with the Nets, snubbing the Mavs and their four-year, $73 million offer.
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On Wednesday in the opener of a six-game homestand for the Mavs, Williams converted 11 of 18 shots in the second half and showed why he is so valuable.
“He got more aggressive [in the second half], the flow and tenor of the game changed, I think, a little bit,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “He kind of got going when we had our smaller guards in there, when we had [Darren] Collison on him, and that’s a tough matchup for Darren.
“Then we tried to switch O.J. [Mayo] onto him. He’s a great player that got in a groove, so he played great.’’
Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans also turned in stellar performances for the Nets. Lopez scored 38 points — one shy of his career high — and added 11 rebounds, and Reggie Evans dragged down 22 of the Nets’ 45 rebounds.
“He had 22 rebounds, so I’d say he was big,” Carlisle said of Evans. “He got them a lot on extra possessions.
“They hurt us in a lot of areas in the paint.”
Although Lopez scored 18 points in the first half, the game was tied 51-51 at intermission. But Lopez got loose for 14 more points in the third period, and got some assistance from Williams, who poured in 13 points in the quarter.
“Yeah, it was hard stopping [Lopez], Deron Williams and Reggie Evans on the boards,” Mavs center Elton Brand said. “They all had a complete game.
“You try to trap and do some other things to stop one thing, and another thing popped up.”
One of those things that popped up was the second-half play of Williams.
“When you’re feeling good and you feel like you can’t miss, it’s a good feeling,” Williams said, “and I looked over at my bench and saw the excitement. This was a big win for us.
“In my hometown or what not, this was a big win no matter what.”
Williams added 13 dagger points in the fourth period for the Nets. That included scoring 10 of the Nets’ 12 points during a 2-minute, 37-second span when Brooklyn increased an 85-81 lead to 97-88 with 6:29 remaining in the game.
The absence of Shawn Marion, who missed his eighth straight game with a strained left calf, crippled the Mavs. He is their best perimeter defender and could have done a better job guarding Williams.
The Mavs got 16 points from Dirk Nowitzki, who became the 10th player in NBA history to collect at least 24,000 points and 9,000 rebounds. Nowitzki, however, got off just 10 shots and made eight of them against the Nets’ sticky defense.
“We’re calling and running a lot of plays through him,” Carlisle said “A lot of times he gets the ball and gets double-teamed or makes a pass out to another guy for a shot, hopefully an open shot.
“Teams work to take his shots away, that’s why balance is so important to us, that’s why we don’t want to get in a situation where we’re just pounding it into him every time. That takes a big toll on him.”
The loss took a big toll on the Mavs, who fall to 3 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“The irony is I think this is the same number of points we gave up [Monday] in Atlanta, but we scored 127, so it all seemed like it was OK,” Carlisle said. “This is an ongoing challenge for us — being able to keep teams at or under 100.
“We’ve got to keep, going and keep working on it.”