Outside the Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue, someone hung a poster of Deron Williams on a street lamp reading “Missing: Deron Williams.”
He was found in Game 6.
Williams finished with 23 points as the Nets forced a Game 7 Sunday with a wire-to-wire 97-83 victory over Toronto on Friday night. And he did so, despite a brief scare in the third quarter when he rolled his left ankle in a collision with Kyle Lowry.
“I thought Deron showed a lot of heart, a lot of grit,” 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.”
“He gutted it out,” Joe Johnson added. “Obviously he battled ankle problems all year. It was a pivotal moment.”
To ensure that the season would continue, the Nets needed Williams to come out and play like he did in wins in Games 1 and 3 and not like he did in the previous two games when he scored 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting.
“We’re professional and everybody has a right to their opinion,” head 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.
Other than colliding with Lowry early in the third, it was a stress-free night for Williams and the Nets, whose biggest lead in the series before Friday had been 12 points. Williams had 14 points at the time when he briefly fell to the ground but he came back following a timeout and scored nine more points.
“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. If I would have went and sat down and went to the back, it’s harder to come back out after that.”
Williams made 8-of-16 shots, including 4-of-10 3-pointers. He established a tone early when the Nets took a 34-19 lead after one quarter and had 61 points at halftime. He polished off the victory by going around Toronto forward Patrick Patterson and drilling a 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining for a 92-79 lead.
“It’s all or nothing,” Alan Anderson said. “I expect him to get up. He’s our leader and it’s all or nothing, he knows that.”
Lowry got by Williams for a layup with 2:50 left to cut the lead to 10 points for the second time in the quarter. But Lowry was held to 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting as Williams controlled the point guard matchup.
The Nets don’t know the exact time they’ll be playing Sunday, but at least they’ll still be playing.
Andray Blatche, who sort of assured a victory when he agreed with Paul Pierce’s comment the Nets would win in Game 6 at the morning shootaround, was more definitive after the win.
“It’s a guarantee,” Blatche said. “We’re going to take care of business in Game 7 and go to Miami.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.