Josh Newman, Field ReporterThis Nets-Raptors first-round playoff series, which the Nets pushed to a Game 7 on Sunday thanks to a 97-83 Game 6 victory on Friday, has been a mixed bag for Deron Williams.
It went downhill in Games 4 and 5, particularly Game 5 when he took just seven shots and came up small late in a 115-113 loss. That effort triggered people saying and writing a lot of different things over the last 36 hours leading up to Game 6.
With all of that going on and with this Nets team, the most expensive in NBA history, having their collective backs to the wall, Williams came out and had a defining performance on a night when the Nets simply had to have it.
He set the tempo, using his aggression and assertiveness to register 23 points, five rebounds and four assists to help send this series back to Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon.
Those numbers come after he scored a combined 21 points on 7-for-19 shooting combined in Games 4 and 5, both of which were Nets losses.
“That’s why you read it in the bathroom,” Nets head coach Jason Kidd joked. “We’re professional, everybody has a right to their opinion. It just shows what type of player he is. He stood up to whatever was said and he played one of his best game.”
“I know, myself, I needed to be aggressive after the last two losses,” Williams said. “The three games we’ve won, I’ve been really aggressive getting into the paint, making things happen and not only scoring the ball, but making the extra pass. That’s what my team needs me to do, so I wanted to come out early and establish that.”
To Williams’ point, there is no question that when he plays well, he makes the Nets go. In three wins during this series, he has averaged 23 points on 46 percent shooting. In three losses, those numbers dip to 12.7 points on 37.1 shooting.
When Game 7 arrives on Sunday, a lot is going to be made about Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett being acquired for these types of moments, but all eyes are going to be on Williams, especially after he put forth a strong effort on Friday.
As many people expected, nothing about this series has been easy in heading to a Game 7 and now, that will include getting Williams healthy after he rolled his left ankle early in the third quarter.
At the 9:55 mark, Williams, who has a history of ankle problems over the last two years, drove the lane and went down hard after being fouled by Terrence Ross. He admits he was not sure if he stepped on someone’s foot or just rolled it, but it looked serious enough at the time that Garnett waved to the bench for help.
Williams walked it off as best he could, shots his two free throws and wound up playing all 12 minutes of the quarter.
Predictably, with another elimination game coming, there is little doubt Williams will play on Sunday.
“I got it pretty good, but I wanted to stay in there,” Williams said. “I was able to walk it off. If I would’ve sat down or went to the back, it’s hard to come back out after that. I’m gonna get a lot of treatment between now and the game and I should be ready to go.”