In his first game following the firing of coach Avery Johnson, Williams erupted for 17 of his 19 points in the first half, and the Nets blew out the lowly Charlotte Bobcats 97-81 at Barclays Center to make a winner of P.J. Carlesimo in his interim coaching debut with the team.
“I missed my first two shots, and in games past, I would kind of drop my head, and P.J. talked to me about that this morning,” said Williams, who finished with just two assists but shot 7-for-14 from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. “I can’t just let my frustrations show or my doubt in myself show; I just gotta keep playing. And that’s what I did.”
On Thursday, Williams, who is having the worst season of his career, defended himself against accusations that he was to blame for Johnson’s ouster. A day later, he was taking advantage of a fresh start, leading his team to victory.
“I think early on, I just got into this mode where I wanted to play a certain way and be a facilitator and not look to score, and I think that then your mentality goes away to be aggressive, so I just gotta get back to that,” Williams said.
“Tonight I didn’t have a lot of assists, but I didn’t need to. The ball was moving. I had a lot of hockey assists, so I just gotta do whatever my team needs me to do. I just need to focus on not being one thing.”
Williams hadn’t scored as many as 17 points in any of his previous four games.
“I just think I need to be aggressive, because I’m not playing well right now. I’m being too passive, and I don’t think that’s good for my team. I just gotta try to be more aggressive,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to do it. It just hasn’t happened. And today I just got real loose, got warmed up good and felt like I had that bounce back in my step and was able to get going. I saw a couple shots go down, which always helps.”
As Williams pointed out, it’s just one game. Still, for a team that had lost five of six and 10 of 13 going in, it was a step in the right direction.
Williams, Brook Lopez (26 points, season-high tying 11 rebounds, three blocks) and Joe Johnson (16 points) combined for 61 points, while the team jumped out to a 33-15 lead after the first quarter and coasted en route to handing the Bobcats their 17th straight loss.
“We didn’t change anything [differently]. We just simplified things. We didn’t run many sets. We did run sets, but I think we did a good job of executing today,” Williams said. “We came out with a lot more energy tonight, and I think we had to, because our backs are against the wall right now. And so we came out and fought.”