NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets went into their biggest game of the season with an aggressive mindset and had few scary moments in keeping their season going.
At least until point guard Deron Williams rolled his left ankle while getting fouled by Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry early in the third quarter.
Williams shrugged it off and scored nine of his 23 points after that collision, helping the Nets earn a 97-83 victory over the Raptors Friday night in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series.
“I got it pretty good, but I just wanted to stay in there,” Williams said. “I was able to walk it off and I think that was the best thing.”
Williams was having a decent night already, having scored 12 by halftime and adding another jumper early in the second half. There were some anxious moments when he fell to the floor after colliding with Lowry, but after getting attended to by trainer Tim Walsh during a timeout, he stayed in the game.
“I thought Deron showed a lot of heart, a lot of grit,” center Kevin Garnett said. “I’d like to use another word but I can’t. For the most part I thought he showed great leadership in coming out playing aggressive. He was beat up a little bit but he sucked it up and my hat goes off to him. He could have taken another route, but that’s our leader.”
Added forward Joe Johnson: “He gutted it out. Obviously he battled ankle problems all year. It was a pivotal moment.”
Williams wound up shooting 8-of-16 and making 4-of-10 3-pointers. His final basket came with 1:13 remaining when he hit a 3-pointer 93 seconds after Lowry got past him for a layup that cut the lead to 89-79. The effort came after he scored 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting in the previous two games, drawing some criticism from fans and media.
“We’re professional and everybody has a right to their opinion,” Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said. “It just shows what type of player he is. He stood up to what everyone said and he responded with one of his best games.”
The Nets will play Game 7 Sunday in Toronto but to ensure at least one more flight, they needed more than just Williams.
Johnson added 17 points when he was not passing out of double teams, doing so by getting to the line nine times. Garnett played 27 minutes and contributed 13 points while forward Paul Pierce chipped in 12 points and six rebounds as the Nets controlled the paint by a 48-32 margin and shot 46.8 percent (36-of-77).
Other than guard DeMar DeRozan’s 28 points on 8-of-18 shooting and 10-of-11 from the line, it was a rough night for the Raptors, who were trying to win their second postseason series and first in a best-of-seven. Lowry was the only other Raptor in double figures with 11 but he shot 4-of-16.
“We did not realize we had Brooklyn against the wall and we did not take advantage of it,” DeRozan said. “They were throwing haymakers and we were not ready for it.”
Williams set the tone for about as flawless of an opening half by a team facing elimination. He gave the Nets an early 14-8 lead with a reverse layup around multiple defenders and a 3-pointer that forced Toronto into an early timeout, which didn’t help them recover.
“He is a helluva point guard to slow down,” DeRozan said. “He is great at rejecting screens, using screens and his crossover. Plus he has shooters around him. We just have to keep him under control.”
The Nets expanded the margin to 34-19 after the first quarter by making 13-of-19 shots from the field, outscoring the Raptors 22-4 in the paint and controlling the glass by a 14-4 margin.
Brooklyn never relented, using a 9-0 run to take a 21-point lead. The Raptors were within 15 twice in the final two minutes of the first half, but guard Alan Anderson hit a running layup and a buzzer-beating step-back jumper from the right wing that expanded the lead to 60-41 at halftime.
Consecutive dunks by center Jonas Valaciunas cut Brooklyn’s lead to 73-57 with 4:01 left in the quarter, forcing a timeout. But the Nets took a 79-59 lead into the fourth.
Two foul shots by DeRozan cut the deficit to 84-73 with 7:40 left and that prompted the quick return of Johnson and Williams.
Brooklyn’s lead hovered in the 10- to 12-point range the rest of the way before Williams hit his biggest shot of the night.
NOTES: During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Nets coach Jason Kidd said it was mind-boggling how G Joe Johnson attempted one free throw in Game 5. On Friday, the league fined him $25,000. That is the same amount that Toronto GM Masai Ujiri paid for his F-Brooklyn remark before Game 1. … Kidd did not comment on the fine, merely saying: “It’s a beautiful day out, isn’t it?” … Kidd also shaved the beard he had sported since the beginning of January. … While crediting the Nets for making shot after shot during a 44-point fourth quarter in Game 5, Toronto coach Dwane Casey conceded that the final 12 minutes were about as undisciplined as his team had played all season. … Johnson was awarded an additional two points from Game 5 and wound up with 32. The basket was initially credited to G Deron Williams. … Rapper Drake, global ambassador for the Raptors, attended Friday’s game and was booed when shown on the scoreboard while a Jay-Z song blared. Jay-Z owned a stake in the Nets before having to sell when he started his Roc Nation sports agency.
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