D-Will's 33 points pace Nets past Hornets

Deron Williams appears to be back on track after matching a season high on Tuesday. Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY Sports

Deron Williams jokingly tried to steal something from a young fan sitting courtside during a stoppage in play in the second quarter.

The Brooklyn Nets sure are a better team when their franchise point guard is having fun.

D-Will finished with a season-high tying 33 points -- including his team’s last 11 in the fourth quarter -- and the Nets survived the New Orleans Hornets, 101-97, on Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena.

“He did all the things we needed to do,” Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo told reporters in New Orleans. “He played extremely well and gave us some big plays down the stretch."

Since the All-Star break, the 28-year-old Williams has performed like a max player. In five games, he’s averaging 22.8 points and 8.4 assists on 45.1 percent shooting -- including 51.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I definitely feel a lot better. My ankles feel a lot better. Definitely the rest helped, and the shots. It’s just a culmination of all of those things,” said Williams, who shot 10-for-21 and added eight assists on Tuesday night. “I’m just looking forward to a strong second half and push toward these playoffs.”

With Williams leading the way, the Nets (34-24) were able to win for the first time without Joe Johnson, who missed his third straight game due to a sore left heel. They are 19-2 against sub-.500 teams (at time of game played) this season, 14-12 on the road and 20-10 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Johnson expects to play on Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks after receiving treatment over the next two days, according to the New York Post.

Brook Lopez got the best of his twin brother, Robin, scoring 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out five assists and blocking four shots. Brook is 2-4 against Robin in his career. Brook, who had been benched for three of the last four fourth quarters, played 4:13 in the final period on Tuesday night and scored six clutch points.

The Nets led by as many as 22. They were ahead by 18 with 9:44 left in the third quarter when a Hornet stepped on D-Will’s right hand. New Orleans would get as close as four, but Williams, who missed his first five shots since suffering the injury, drained a clutch 3-pointer with 1:23 left to put the Nets up 93-84.

He then scored eight points in the final minute -- going 6-for-6 from the free-throw stripe -- to keep the Hornets at bay.

Williams seemed to have his explosiveness back from the opening tip. He had made six of his first seven shots and scored 14 points in the first quarter -- four on a pair of strong driving layups. He had 20 at the half.

“We’ve had that happen a lot where everything’s going good and it’s not,” Williams said. “We’ve gotta eliminate that. It’s a little bit of selfish play and mental breakdowns. Luckily, it didn’t bite us.”