Nets 110, Suns 103
The Phoenix Suns were missing their star point guard, Steve Nash. The New Jersey Nets certainly had theirs, and he was at his best.
Deron Williams had 35 points, his most since coming to New Jersey at last season's trade deadline, and 14 assists as the Nets held off the short-handed Suns 110-103 Friday night for just their third victory in 12 games this season.
Williams said it was his best game ''by far'' since coming to the Nets from the Utah Jazz.
''I kept my turnovers down today,'' he said. ''I scored, I assisted, I did a better job of leading the team. That is what I have to continue to do.''
Williams had been tossed from the team's previous game after drawing his second technical foul in the fourth quarter of a loss at Denver on Wednesday night.
''I just wanted to play better,'' he said. ''I got thrown out of that last game and needed a little spark. I used that to my advantage to get my head back and get back to playing good basketball.''
Coach Avery Johnson cited Williams' overall game.
''He scored, he passed it, but also when we needed stops, we put him on the guy on their perimeter that was hurting us the most,'' Johnson said.
Phoenix, playing without Grant Hill as well as Nash because of injuries, was down by three at the half before the Nets pulled away with a barrage of 3-pointers. A rally in the final minutes by the Suns fell short.
Williams tied a career high with six 3-pointers. MarShon Brooks scored 20, Anthony Morrow 16 and Kris Humphries 15 for the Nets, who snapped a three-game skid.
Ronnie Price, starting in place of Nash, scored a career-high 18 and had eight assists in Phoenix's third loss in a row, the last two at home. Price was Williams' backup at Utah and knew what he was up against.
''I consider him, with all due respect, one of the best point guards in the game, if not the best.'' Price said. ''But putting that all aside I wanted to accept the challenge. I played against him four years in practice so I figured I knew his one-on-one moves, but when he's coming off screens and knocking down 3s like that, a guy has it going like that, there's really nothing you can do.''
Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns. Jared Dudley added 18 points.
''I thought that Deron Williams just took over the game,'' Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. ''He's one of the great players in this league so sometimes that's going to happen.''
New Jersey, on its second stop of a four-game trip, made 15 of 32 3-pointers, with Williams going 6 of 9 and Morrow 4 of 7.
Nash, the NBA assist leader, was sidelined with a right quad contusion, described by Gentry as a charley horse. Hill has a right quad tendon strain. Both injuries occurred in the Suns' home loss to Cleveland on Thursday night.
''It's kind of like Peyton Manning for the Colts,'' Dudley said of the absence of Nash. ''This offense is predicated on him and everything. Ronnie filled in nicely. He played extremely well. But obviously there's only one Nash and obviously you need G-Hill out there.''
Brooks' driving layup with 4:14 remaining gave New Jersey a 102-93 lead. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw and the Suns' rally began. Brown hit a mid-range jumper, then Channing Frye found a pair of teammates for layups, first Gortat and then Brown, to cut it to 102-99 with 2:48 remaining.
It got no closer. Price forced up an errant 3-pointer, then Brooks found Humphries for a dunk and New Jersey led 104-99 1:47 from the finish. Morrow's 3-pointer on a pass from Williams sealed it at 107-99 with 50 seconds left.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, with the Nets up 54-51 at the break.
Williams, who missed just once in his first seven 3-point attempts, put his team in control in the third quarter.
He sank three 3s in a row in a 9-2 run that gave the Nets an 86-79 lead with 1:39 left in the third quarter. New Jersey led 88-82 entering in the fourth. After Hakim Warrick's layup cut the lead to 91-88 with 10 minutes to play, the Nets ran off the next 10 points. Brooks' 3-pointer, followed by his 11-foot bank shot, put New Jersey ahead 100-88 with 6:58 to play.
Notes: The Nets used their eighth different starting lineup in 12 games. ... The Suns begin a five-game trip, their longest of the condensed season, Sunday night at San Antonio. Other stops are Chicago, New York, Boston and Dallas. ... New Jersey started 1 of 6 on 3s, then made 14 of its next 26. ... Phoenix made 8 of 22 3s, 2 of 10 in the second half.