If an aggressive Deron Williams is as much a harbinger of success in this series as he appears to be, then it seems obvious that he will be going all out in Game 7. The stakes are high; there is no way that when this team was being constructed, albeit haphazardly, the forecast was going to be a difficult regular season marred by a coach learning on the fly and failed expectations. I am certain that their mantra during those tough times was “let’s just get into the playoffs; we can forget everything up to that point and just play.” It seems like sometimes Williams gets the message, and the urgency, and sometimes he doesn’t.
The Nets have already staved off elimination in Game 6 and now have to duplicate a much-needed effort for Game 7 in Toronto. After Game 4, Williams came out and said that he had to get back to the aggression that he showed in Game 1. It was a game that I thought would be typical of the series—tough, hard-fought, and contested with the veteran Nets finding a way to do just enough to squeeze out every game. Williams looked like the difference in Game 1, yet he didn’t show the same urgency in Game 2. Now, in a series that exemplifies the maddening and sensational first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, Williams can take the Game 7 on Sunday and decide whether he and the rest of the experienced group is going to take another step on making good the expectations that were laid out when they were all brought together. A first-round exit would be a serious blow to ambitious Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Can Deron Williams (yes, he is the one I’m mentioning) deliver a least a modest something for him?
I didn’t have high hopes for the Toronto Raptors in Game 5. It took a massive performance from Kyle Lowry to hold on after the Raptors allowed 44 points in the fourth quarter. That would have been a historic gaffe, at home no less, but they took control with that win.
Game 6 looked like the end of Game 5; the Raptors were tight and lethargic and I gave them almost no chance to win from the start. I almost looked as if they were conceding the game under the assumption that they could handle the Nets back in Toronto for Game 7. There’s really little to go in depth about regarding that game: the Raptors were bad and the Nets were good. And Deron Williams was looking for his.
And so it’s back to Williams. I still cannot fathom why he didn’t take Game 1 as the blueprint for what he needed to do the entire series. There is no question that Joe Johnson was a mismatch with his physicality, but if Jason Kidd allowed Williams to sacrifice himself for Johnson, then he isn’t doing a good coaching job. Toronto has done a good job with adjustments on Johnson, but they haven’t had a lot of success on Williams, but that’s only when he’s looking to push the tempo and drive the offense.
The Nets are 3-0 when Williams scores 20 points and 0-3 when he doesn’t. He did roll his ankle near the end of Game 6 and that is worth watching, but he has to win the matchup against Kyle Lowry. I may be overly simple, but I will stick with assuming that the winner of that match up will win Game 7.
And yes, I didn’t mention much about the Raptors. I feel bad about that because I love this team, the energy, and what they could do in the second round. Still, like I have been saying from the beginning, the Nets drive this bus and the series will commence on their terms. I’ll call for a very aggressive Kyle Lowry but a cold DeMar DeRozan (and he’ll get caught up in the moment and chuck a lot of them), and big games from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams in an eight point Brooklyn Nets win. It really is about time that Williams rewards Brooklyn’s investment. At least in a first round series, reasonably insignificant in the grand scheme, he will do that.
Or, of course, the Raptors could just look to give the ball to the guy who is shooting 70 percent in the series. Too much to ask, I suppose?