BROOKLYN - The pressure was on the Brooklyn Nets, who entered Friday night down 3-2 in their first round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors. Meaning, win or stay home; season over, see you next year.
Well, the Nets were not messing around on Friday night, and Andray Blatche's "guarantee" came true in a big statement game, as the Nets evened up the series at 3-3, winning 97-83, and sending it to a Game 7 on Sunday in Toronto. Deron Williams came up big for the Nets.
The game started off with a strange and late lineup change, as Jason Kidd opted to put Alan Anderson in the starting lineup in place of Shaun Livingston. There was no explanation, as it was called just minutes before tip -- which happened to a near empty arena, with about half the seats full for most of the first quarter.
Deron Williams came out aggressive early, driving to the hoop and also showing off his spot-up jumper. Before the game, the thought was that Williams needed to dictate the pace early, and he did just that. Williams and Joe Johnson combined to score 14 points in the first, getting the Nets a nice early cushion. Paul Pierce chipped in with nine points of his own
Jonas Valanciunas picked up his second foul at the 4-minute mark in the first, taking the "size" out of the Raptors lineup early. The Nets attacked the basket early, scoring 22 points in the paint in the first quarter. They also outrebounded the Raptors 14-4 in the quarter, and after shooting a highly efficient 68.4 percent from the floor, the Nets carried a 34-19 lead after one.
Valanciunas returned to start the second, but just a minute-plus into the quarter he picked up his third foul, sending him once again to the bench.
Meanwhile, the Nets continued to pour it on offensively. The bench picked up where they staters left off, with Livingston now running the point for the second unit.
Brooklyn was getting contributions from everyone, on both sides of the floor. They finished the first half shooting 59 percent from the floor and outscoring the Raptors 34-10 in the paint.
Williams led the way as the Nets carried a 60-41 lead into halftime.
The Nets continued to play hot basketball early in the second half, but at the 10-minute mark Deron Williams went down, hurting his ankle and limping off the court. He walked it off through the timeout and eventually stayed in the game. After hitting one of two free throws, Williams hit a corner three in the next offensive possession. Brooklyn had built up a 68-43 lead; timeout Toronto.
Raptors made a push late in the third quarter, cutting what was once a 26-point lead down to 16 with about four minutes remaining. This after the Nets were unable to put down a few easy buckets in the paint. They did, however, respond to close out the quarter and Brooklyn took a 79-59 lead into the fourth quarter.
Toronto made a much-anticipated run in the fourth, as the second unit struggled to get much going offensively. At one point, the Raptors had pulled to within 11 points, forcing Kidd to return his starters a bit earlier than he would have liked.
An amped up Kevin Garnett, a few nice defensive stops thanks to Mirza Teletovic and Williams working through his ankle injury, and the lead was back up to 13 midway through the fourth quarter.
Kyle Lowry and the Raptors didn't go away quietly, though. It got "close," but never really that close.
In the end, the Nets topped the Raptors, 97-83, shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and outscoring them 48-30 in the paint. Deron Williams finished with 23 points and four assists, while Pierce added 12 points and Johnson went for 17.
After the game, Nets players looked forward to the next one...
Paul Pierce: "These are the types of games that elevate good players to great players. I love these situations."
Andray Blatche: "It's a guarantee. We're going to take care of business in Game 7 and go to Miami."
Next up, Game 7 on Sunday in Toronto. It obviously doesn't get any bigger than this.
For more on the Raptors, see: Raptors HQ
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