Deron Williams snapped out of a lackluster second half in time to save the Brooklyn Nets from a painful collapse.
One game after coming up empty in the final minutes of a close loss to Memphis, Williams scored for 11 of his 31 points in the final 1:24 in New Orleans, and the Nets snapped a two-game skid by holding off the Hornets, 101-97 on Tuesday night.
"I especially wanted to step up after how the last game went down the stretch for me personally," Williams said. "It feels good to get it going, especially down the stretch and be able to close out a game. It's something I've kind of struggled with this year and I was really successful at it most of my career, so it feels good to be able to finally have a game like that."
Williams was coming off a game against the Grizzlies in which he went scoreless during the last six minutes, with one shot blocked and a turnover with 10.9 seconds left with his team trailing 74-72.
After scoring 20 points in the first half in New Orleans, Williams had only one basket during the next 22:36 as the Hornets nearly erased a deficit that had been as large as 22. Then Williams drained a timely 3, added a fadeaway jumper, and followed that with six free throws in the final 18.7 seconds to seal it.
"He played a great game. That's why he's an All-Star," Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "When he plays like that, we are hard to beat."
It was a timely performance as well. Joe Johnson missed his third straight game with a sore left heel after going through warm-ups with the hope of coming back. Brooklyn had lost its last two without him.
"We thought he was going to go tonight until right before the game," Williams said. "So that was kind of a blow and I just wanted to be there for my team."
Brook Lopez added 20 points and four blocks while playing against his twin brother, Robin, and Keith Bogans added 12 points for Brooklyn, hitting all four of his shots, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Williams made four of his eight 3-point attempts, and the Nets shot 60 percent (12 of 20) from long range as a team.
Greivis Vasquez scored 20 and Robin Lopez 14 for New Orleans, which has lost four of five.
"They just kind of jumped on us early," Robin Lopez said. "It was a combination of their aggressiveness and they hit a few jumpers."
The Nets hit seven of their first nine shots in racing to a 17-8 lead. By the end of the opening quarter, Williams had 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and Brooklyn led 31-20.
"That is unacceptable," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "We have to bring the energy and effort because we don't have high-level talent at every position. We just didn't have it in the first quarter."
The lead grew to 51-29 on Williams' free throws with 4:36 left in the second quarter. Then Eric Gordon, who had 10 points, made a jumper and layup in succession, helping the Hornets close the quarter on a 12-6 run to cut their deficit to 57-41 at halftime.
New Orleans was still down by 18 early in the third quarter, but later used an 8-0 run ignited by Robin Lopez's putback and Anthony Davis' layup to get as close as 66-59 in the period, and trailed only 73-65 heading into the final quarter after Jason Smith's fast-break layup in the final second.
Smith's jumper had New Orleans as close as 84-80 with more than five minutes still to go, but Lopez and Williams began to take over again, scoring the rest of the Nets' points and briefly building the lead back to nine inside the final two minutes.
"It's definitely good to get a win like this, but I try not to put too much stock into one game," Brook Lopez said.
The Hornets cut it to three three times inside the final half-minute, with Ryan Anderson, who scored 13 points, hitting a 3 and a tough turnaround, and Vasquez adding a 3.
Each time, however, Williams responded with free throws to keep New Orleans at bay.
NOTES: Davis left the game late in the third quarter with a left shoulder injury. Hornets officials said he was available to return to the game and he remained on the bench, but Williams said he chose not to play him again. ... Brooklyn's C.J. Watson, who started for Johnson, had 10 points. ... This was the first meeting between the teams this season, with the second coming March 12, the day after the Hornets' Davis turns 20. ... The Hornets had won their previous four at home against the Nets. ... Brooklyn improved to 14-12 on the road, while the Hornets fell to 10-18 at home.