HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Mo Williams needed that one.
Acquired by the Utah Jazz to bury 3-pointers, Williams hasn’t been doing it with any regularity. In fact, Wednesday night against the West-leading San Antonio Spurs, Williams had missed all three of his attempts, including one with 9.9 seconds left, only to be saved by a Paul Millsap rebound.
Timeout. Williams now had only had 6.7 seconds of regulation left to redeem himself.
Did he ever.
Williams indeed buried his fourth attempt from a few feet behind the arc and with Danny Green‘s hand in his face. The buzzer sounded, the crowd went berserk and Williams was mobbed by his teammates. The Jazz had shot down the Spurs 99-96 for a fourth consecutive win to get to 13-10 and 9-1 at home.
Of course, it was the Spurs who swept the 3-point-deficient Jazz in the first round last season under a barrage of 3-pointers and then swept Williams’ Clippers in the second round.
“It’s big,” Williams said after the game. “I’ve got a lot of respect for their organization. They’ve been [winning] for a long time, an organization you try to model yourself after, but at the same time you don’t want to be the step brother forever.”
It’s bigger on a personal level for Williams, who has begun to lift his sagging 3-point percentage over the last six games, going 10-for-21 (47.6 percent). Before that it took him 10 games to make 10 3-pointers, a span in which he went 10-for-36 (27.7 percent).
For much of the season, he’s been stuck around 32 percent from the arc, well below Williams’ 38.6 career percentage. His recent run has boosted him to 36.6 percent.
Jazz coach Ty Corbin could have called on Randy Foye to take the final shot. Foye, after all, leads the team from behind the arc at 43.7 percent.
Instead the call went to Williams, and Wednesday’s game-winner was no gimme. Williams handled the ball on the right wing, a few feet behind the arc with Green, who has long arms and at 6-foot-6 is five inches taller than Williams, in good defensive position.
Still, Williams stepped up and rose over Green with about 1.8 seconds to go. The ball splashed through the net as the buzzer went off.
Remember, Williams agreed during the summer to allow the Clippers to trade him to Utah, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2003. The Clips wanted to open space to deal for Lamar Odom from the fed-up Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz wanted Williams over Devin Harris, a mediocre perimeter shooter.
Williams, part of a backcourt logjam in L.A., came to Utah to run the point and bang 3-pointers. He’s been warming up from out there, and although he was just 1-for-4 against the Spurs, he hit the big one, the one he really needed.
“It showed how much my teammates believe in me, showed how much the coaches believe in me,” Williams said. “It was a tough night shooting for me, missed a couple shots down the stretch that I felt good about. They came back to me and it shows how much confidence they have in me.”