Call off the search party.
After Deron Williams went missing for most of the previous two games, he delivered when the Nets needed him most, putting together a sensational game to lead a 97-83 win over the Raptors in Game 6 on Fridaynight in Brooklyn, sending the series back to Toronto for Game 7 on Sunday and extending the season for at least a couple more days.
“I knew, myself, that I needed to be more aggressive after the last two losses,” Williams said. “In the three games we won, I’ve been really aggressive, getting into the paint and making things happen.
“I know that’s what my team needs me to do, and I wanted to come out early and establish that.”
In the hours before Game 6 began, a fan put up a missing person sign with Williams’ face on it on the Atlantic Avenue side of the arena. It was a fitting dig at the way the star guard had played over the previous two games — both losses for the Nets with Williams spending most of them as a well-paid spectator on the floor.
That certainly wasn’t the case Friday, though, as Williams gave the Nets exactly the kind of aggressive, engaged performance they desperately needed to keep their season alive.
Williams also dominated his matchup with Kyle Lowry, a reversal of Game 5 when Lowry torched him for 36 points. This time, the Nets held Lowry to 11 points on dismal 4-for-16 shooting from the field, including 2-for-7 from 3-point range.
“That’s why you read it in the bathroom,” a smiling Nets coach Jason Kidd said of the criticism of his point guard leading up to Game 6. “We’re professional, and everybody has a right to their opinion, and it just shows what type of player and what he is all about.
“He stood up to whatever was said and he responded with one of his best games.”
Williams didn’t take any time to get going, scoring five points in the first quarter to help the Nets jump out to a 34-19 lead after the opening quarter, a lead they never relinquished — and which never slipped below double-digits the rest of the night.
“They were throwing haymakers,” said DeMar DeRozan, who led the Raptors with 28 points, “and we were not ready for it.”
But after Williams continued his strong play through the end of the first half as the Nets took a 60-41 lead into the break, things looked as if they had taken a disastrous turn for the worst early in the third quarter when he went tumbling to the ground clutching his left ankle after twisting it while driving into the lane and drawing a foul.
“I got it pretty good, but I wanted to stay in there,” said Williams, who spent separate stints on the sidelines with a sprain in each ankle this season. “I was able to walk it off, and I think that was the best thing.
“If I would’ve went and sat down or went to [the locker room], it’s harder to come back out after that.”
Instead, Williams shot both free throws, making one, and remained in the game. After initially looking a bit slowed by the injury, he improved as the game went along, and said afterward he thought he “should be ready to go” in Game 7.
Call off the search party.