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Williams scores 28 as Nets cruise by Suns 108-95

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

By BRIAN MAHONEY

AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) Deron Williams felt so good, he even dunked for the first time this season.

Or, maybe he didn't.

"We're trying to debate if that was a dunk," Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said.

It wasn't pretty, but it went in, just like nearly every other shot Williams took in one of his best games of the season.

Williams scored 28 points, leading the Nets to a 108-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night that extended their home winning streak to nine.

Williams shot 11 of 13 from the field and looks all the way back after ankle problems wrecked his first half of the season. He was two points off his season high and rose above the rim to throw down a dunk that finished off a fourth-quarter fast break started by Andrei Kirilenko's steal.

The dunk wasn't exactly a no-doubter, but far better than what Williams was capable of a couple of months ago.

"I'm going to give it to him," rookie Mason Plumlee said. "He's gone up about three times now with great courage. If at first you don't succeed, keep trying. This one, I mean it rattled in, so he didn't get the flush, but he got a dunk. There's a difference."

Williams joked that his coach was supposed to have his back, adding that Kidd "was never a dunker in his day, either." But there's no debating that the two-time Olympian looks better, and so do the Nets when he plays like this.

"I'm definitely feeling better," Williams said after shooting 80 percent in a game for the first time in his career. "Still not jumping that high, as you can tell, but definitely feeling better and more confident every day."

Joe Johnson added 19 points for the Nets, on their longest home winning streak since winning nine straight from March 15-April 6, 2006.

Playing without Kevin Garnett because of back spasms for the ninth straight game, the Nets continued to thrive playing small ball, making 67.5 percent of their shots in the first half and leading by as much as 23 in the game.

Garnett hasn't played this month and will miss at least two more games before he is re-evaluated Saturday before the Nets leave for a three-game trip. But Mason Plumlee had another strong game in his absence, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds in outplaying his brother, Miles.

Markieff Morris scored 18 points and Gerald Green 17 for the Suns, who were seeking a perfect three-game trip against Atlantic Division teams after winning at Boston and Toronto. But they never led and fell 1 1/2 games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"We can't have these semi-efforts on nights. We had terrible effort tonight," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "This team has a bunch of All-Stars on it. This should have been a big game to get hyped up. Maybe we were worn out with four games in five nights. I don't know."

Kidd talked before the game about how potent the Suns, who scored 121 points at Toronto, could be. But it was the Nets who were quicker up and down the floor in their 16th victory in their last 18 home games.

The Nets made eight of their first 11 shots, hit 70 percent in the first quarter, and led by as much as 14 in the period before taking a 30-20 lead to the second. With a couple of huge dunks by Green to answer some by Shaun Livingston, Phoenix was able to match Brooklyn in first-half highlights but not in baskets.

Williams made all three of his shots in the second quarter, including a layup that gave the Nets a 62-49 lead at the break.

"They were better than us today," Suns guard Goran Dragic said. "We tried to battle but we didn't find energy, and when you play hard you get all the calls. They were just better in all aspects of the game."

Phoenix cut it to 76-67 on Morris' three-point play, but Johnson and Paul Pierce hit consecutive 3-pointers to start a 14-0 burst and gave the Nets a 90-67 lead with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter.

NOTES: Livingston, who suffered a devastating knee injury early in his career, surpassed his previous bests for minutes played and points scored in a season Monday. ... Brooklyn's Jorge Gutierrez played 7 scoreless minutes on the day he signed a second 10-day contract. He played in only one game during the first deal. ... The game featured two sets of brothers, with the Suns' Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus, and the Plumlees.

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Updated March 17, 2014

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