Nets start strong, win Game 6 to send series back to Toronto
Kevin Garnett was walking to the bench, knowing the Nets had staved off elimination.
He had just finished talking some trash at rapper Drake. Then he slapped hands with Jay Z and Beyoncé, obviously tickled the Nets are still alive.
The extreme control the Nets had exhibited all game vanished a bit in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center as they watched a 20-point deficit get cut in half. But the Nets weren't about to be denied, and now they've forced a deciding Game 7 against the Raptors in their first-round series.
Deron Williams drained a huge three-pointer with 1:13 left to erase any fears, sealing a wire-to-wire 97-83 victory over the Raptors Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 17,732 and vaulting the Nets into a Game 7 for the second straight season.
But unlike last year, when the Nets lost to the Bulls at home, tomorrow's Game 7 will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The winner faces the two-time defending champion Heat in the conference semifinals beginning Tuesday in Miami.
"It's going to be fun," Paul Pierce said. "This is what the NBA is all about, these pressure-type moments. These are the types of games that elevate the good player to great players, and we have so many of them coming up this weekend.
"It's an exciting time and we are going to enjoy it. We go into a hostile environment where it's win or go home. These are the types I love, I love to be in, and I love our chances."
Especially if Williams plays again the way he did Friday night. He scored 23 points and had five rebounds and four assists.
Williams gave everyone a scare early in the third quarter when he took a bad spill driving to the basket and appeared to roll his left ankle awkwardly. But he stayed in the game and came through with that big shot late, which had to be a confidence-booster.
Williams' struggles were so magnified in the previous two games that someone had some fun with his spotty play, slapping a poster on a telephone pole outside the arena. It read like an old-school milk carton, asking if people had seen Williams' whereabouts, and if so, to contact general manager Billy King.
But Williams and his teammates definitely showed up. He was a big reason they took a 60-41 halftime lead and led by as many as 26 points in the third quarter.
With the Nets on the brink, Williams was aggressive and assertive from the opening tip. He ignited an offense that switched things up, with Nets coach Jason Kidd inserting Alan Anderson in the starting lineup in place of Shaun Livingston.
"I thought Deron showed a lot of heart, a lot of grit," said Garnett, who stabilized things with a pair of big fourth-quarter buckets, the second of which gave the Nets an 88-76 edge. "I would like to use another word, but I can't. For the most part, he showed great leadership in playing aggressive. He was beat up a little bit but he sucked it up and got through it.
"My hat goes off to him. He could have took another route, you know? But that's our leader. That's our leader. I thought he showed great poise and he gritted through."
The playoffs are all about making adjustments, and Kidd threw a curveball at the Raptors. By bringing Livingston off the bench, it gave the Nets more of a true ballhandler on the floor with their second unit when Williams wasn't present, keeping an offensive flow going for a second unit that had struggled to match the kind of production it frequently posted during the regular season.
"Just playing desperate basketball," Garnett said. "We had our backs against the wall at home. There was no way in hell that they was going to come in here and get a win today. It was just a desperate [approach], and now we got to go up there and have the same kind of mindset in a very, very voracious and passionate atmosphere."