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Deron Williams heard the booing. Better yet, he heard the things being said toward him behind the Dallas Mavericks bench.
Yes, it motivated him. And as Jazz fans should remember, a motivated Deron Williams can be a lethal Deron Williams.
"For some reason, it was worse this year than it was in the past," Williams said. "I guess they needed a villain. ... I'll be that."
Williams shook off the hostilities and promptly took out his own anger on the Utah Jazz. In a must-win game for both teams, the Mavericks defeated the Jazz 101-92 on Monday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Williams was the best player on the floor in the process.
It's been five years since he was traded from the Jazz to the Brooklyn Nets. In that time Williams has had his issues with injury and his game simply deteriorating. But on Monday night, Williams looked like peak Deron Williams aka, one of the best point guards in the league.
He scored a team-high 23 points and added six assists and four rebounds. He shot 9-of-16 from the field. He got into the lane at will, and he stretched and contracted the Jazz defense all evening.
It was a game that could've put the Jazz into the playoffs. Instead, it turned into the game where two former Jazz players Wesley Matthews scored 20 points of his own put Utah's playoff hopes on life support.
"This game meant a lot to us," Williams said. "We knew it meant a lot to them as well, so coming in here we knew this was going to be a playoff atmosphere. Essentially, it was a playoff game because there was so much at stake."
Matthews was almost equally as good as Williams. He shot 7-of-14 from the field and hit multiple 3-pointers up against the shot clock. Matthews was also instrumental defensively, helping hold Jazz guard Rodney Hood to 1-of-11 shooting from the field.
Those two made shots all night to stop Jazz momentum. They controlled the game on both ends. And they offered help to Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"It's just crazy how big a game this was," Matthews said. "It was a blessing, because this was a playoff game for us. It was a good test for all of us, a good test for some of our young guys who haven't been in this position before."
R The Mavericks, with the help of two former Jazzmen, clinched a playoff berth with Monday night's win.
• Deron Williams has scored 20 or more points 15 times this season. He had a team-high 23 on Monday night.
• Wesley Matthews scored 20 points in 38 minutes.