NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A few minutes after having another strong game, Deron Williams was asked about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude during what has been a trying season.
The look on his face in response to the question was one of irritation.
“I love it here,” Williams deadpanned after he scored 26 points to help the New Jersey Nets beat the Detroit Pistons 99-96 Wednesday night.
It was the fifth straight game Williams scored 20 or more points as the Nets improved to 8-15. He has finished in double figure scoring in every game this season.
Kris Humphries had 18 points, Jordan Farmar added 15 and Shawne Williams 15 for the Nets.
“It’s big for us,” Shelden Williams said of the win.
Greg Monroe and Tayshaun Prince scored 21 points each for the Pistons, who have lost 20 of 24 this season. Detroit rookie point guard Brandon Knight added 15 points, Jonas Jerebko had 14 and Walker Russell Jr. 12.
Knight missed a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the game.
“It felt good. It didn’t go in,” Knight said of the errant shot. “It did feel good.”
After trailing by 12 points midway through the third quarter, Detroit pulled to 72-71 entering the fourth. The teams exchanged baskets throughout the final quarter, with Williams’ playmaking the difference.
Taking advantage of his pass-or-shoot options, Williams routinely broke down Knight. He would then drive, shoot or set up his teammates. Williams shot 12 for 21 from the field and had nine assists on the Nets’ 38 baskets.
“Going 1-on-1 with Deron Williams is very tough,” Knight said.
Added Pistons coach Lawrence Frank: “Deron Williams is a special player.”
The game between two of the Eastern Conference’s weaker teams was predictably sloppy. In the first quarter, Monroe drove baseline and elevated. He extended his arm a split-second before releasing the ball, which missed the rim by 6 inches. Deron Williams’ teammates fumbled a half-dozen of his passes in the first three quarters.
“We were on a back-to-back and I think they were as well,” Humphries said. “You can’t take anyone lightly. They made a push at the end. (It was) sloppy (at times).”
New Jersey took advantage of Detroit’s porous perimeter defense, shooting 48 percent from the field and 35 percent on 3s.
“Jordan Farmar had some big 3s and Shawne Williams gave us a big boost in the first half with his 3-point shooting,” New Jersey coach Avery Johnson said.
The game also marked Frank’s return to New Jersey for the first time since taking over the Pistons. Frank was 225-241 record in 466 games spanning seven seasons with the Nets, including four straight playoff appearances.
“I love New Jersey. It’s home,” said Frank, who was an assistant on the Celtics last season. “There are a lot of great memories.”
Frank expressed concern before the game about his team’s effort and defensive shortcomings in their last two losses to the Milwaukee Bucks (103-82) and New York Knicks (113-86). The Pistons have been outscored by an average of 11.1 points per game this season.
“We have to install defensive intensity. (It is the) only way we have a chance of winning,” Frank said. “(We) want to establish a defense-first mentality.)”
Despite the loss, Frank’s players echoed their coach’s message.
“To be able to have a chance, it felt good,” Prince said. “The positive is that we played harder than we’ve been playing throughout this losing streak. We have to continue to play hard. If we play hard, good things can happen.”
NOTES: The Nets dressed only eight players due to injuries to centers Brook Lopez and Mehmet Okur, forward Damion James and guard MarShon Brooks. “(I) can’t ever remember having under 10 players,” Johnson said. . The newest Nets player, veteran swingman Keith Bogans, made his debut against Detroit. “Bogans can play the two or the three, has the respect of the officials (and) can make a three,” Johnson said. The coach estimated that Bogans would play “a minimum of 12 minutes.” Bogans scored two points in 18 minutes.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)