Game 1 gem was vintage D-Will

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Saturday night, Deron Williams was able to get whatever he wanted on the offensive end, whether it was an open shot for his teammates or himself.

He even threw down a two-handed reverse dunk for good measure.

Yes, D-Will was at his best in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The franchise point guard finished with 22 points, seven assists and three steals, leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 106-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 2 will take place Monday night at Barlcays Center.

No wonder Nets GM Billy King was so high on this guy, executing a blockbuster trade to get Williams at the deadline in 2011, then investing $98 million on him last summer.

It just took a while for Williams to regain the form that made him a three-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Williams was playing hurt for the first 50 games of the 2012-13 season, bothered by injuries to both of his ankles and his right wrist. His performance, his numbers and his team's record suffered as a result.

But then, as has been well-documented, Williams took a week off at the All-Star break, during which he received his third set of cortisone shots, platelet-rich plasma therapy treatment and did a three-day juice cleanse.

Ever since, you can put him right up there with Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker on the list of the NBA's upper-echelon floor generals.

"I was feeling badly for Deron having to play dinged up," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "But I'm very, very surprised that he and our medical were able to turn it around that dramatically that quickly.

"I think [being healthy] has allowed him to be Deron Williams, more explosive. I think with the ankles and the wrist feeling better, the 3-point shot came back. Now, when he's hitting on all cylinders like that, he's very difficult to defend.

"If you watch tapes, if you watch him prior to All-Star break and post, it's almost a different player. It's great that he was able to do that. [The hard] work, the conditioning, the treatment is paying off."

Prior to Game 1, Williams hadn't appeared in a playoff game since May 10, 2010.

"It's no fun sitting and watching people compete in the playoffs while you're at home," he said. "It's a lot better feeling being back in the playoffs, playing meaningful basketball games."

In 45 career postseason games (44 with the Utah Jazz), Williams is averaging 21.2 points and 9.5 assists on 46.1 percent shooting.

On Saturday night, the Bulls put Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler on Williams. But it didn't matter who guarded him. D-Will had his way.

"I think just being aggressive," Williams replied when asked why he was able to be so dominant. "That's something I'm going to have to do all series, all playoffs, is just be aggressive. Whether that's scoring the basketball, drawing two guys on me and making the right play, I'm just going to continue to be aggressive, attack in transition, attack in the halfcourt. Just try to be real consistent with that."

As for that reserve dunk, Brook Lopez said, laughing: "That was nice. What can I say? I can't do that."