Over the last couple of weeks, Jeremy Lin has made many a foil and many a fool of his opponents. His and the New York Knicks' incredible streak may have blurred the fact that this all started on Feb. 4, when Lin came off the bench to lead a comeback over the New Jersey Nets. One person who absolutely did not forget about that is Deron Williams. Based on the way he played Monday night, it seems likely that he spend the previous 15 days thinking about nothing but that game and tossing darts at a cut-out of Lin's face. Williams, who got burned by Lin throughout that loss a couple weeks ago, single-handedly dismantled the Knicks with a career-best outing from downtown. His 38 points, including eight three-pointers, led the Nets to a 100-92 win and produced the prevailing storyline in a game that had plenty others to offer.
The major storyline for the home team was one of New York's first games as a nearly-whole squad. Though several bench players were missing, the Knicks had Carmelo Anthony back in the starting lineup, Baron Davis making his debut off the bench, and J.R. Smith playing his second game with the team. Would Melo mesh with Lin? With Amar'e Stoudemire? Would Baron Davis help off the bench? Would Smith prove to be more reward than risk? The answer: Uh, maybe? A little?
The Knicks rushed out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, moving the ball beautifully in front of a raucous crowd, but things kind of fell apart from there. Melo looked pretty rusty after two weeks on the sidelines and the rest of the Knicks struggled to find and execute open looks. More importantly, the defense caved to an otherworldly outside performance by the Nets and surrendered an exceedingly physical -- often downright nasty -- battle inside.
New Jersey's three-point shooting started as a flurry of uncontested threes by Williams and DeShawn Stevenson, but by the second half, it was all Williams, all net, all the time. It got absurd. Williams hit a career-high eight three-pointers and had 18 points of his 38 in the third quarter alone. In that third, he went from canning open looks to drilling pull-up heat checks over and through defenders. Had he not gotten in foul trouble, Williams might well have avenged his way to 50, but even with an early exit, the damage was down. Deron's outing was part of a 15-31 outside performance by the Nets, and anything that didn't come from outside the arc fell into the hands of Kris Humphries, who harassed the Knick front line to no end and finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. The Nets went up by as much as 19 in the second half and, despite small runs, never really seemed threatened.
New York's loss dropped them back below .500 but, with a Boston loss, actually moved them to 7th in the Eastern Conference. The Nets moved to 10-24 with the win.