NEW YORK: Deron Williams scored 23 points and shook off an ankle sprain to lead the Brooklyn Nets over Toronto 97-83 and keep their NBA playoff hopes alive.
Williams, who scored 11 points after twisting his left ankle early in the third quarter on Friday, added five rebounds and four assists to help the Nets level their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series at 3-3 and force a decisive seventh game Sunday at Toronto.
“It’ll be a little more sore when the adrenaline wears off, but it will be ready on Sunday,” Williams said of his ankle.
The Nets led by as many as 26 points in the third and took a 79-59 margin into the fourth quarter, but Brooklyn was mindful of what happened in game five at Toronto, where the Raptors led by 22 entering the final period only to have the Nets move ahead in the late going only to lose.
Toronto made a 14-2 run to pull within 86-76 with 5:02 to play in game six but the Raptors came no closer.
“We did a good job putting them away,” Williams said. “We knew they were going to make a run. They are a great team. It was a tough battle all the way through.
“They were persistent and we got up 20. Sometimes when you get up 20 you get complacent. We had to fight to finish it out.”
The Nets reached a seventh game last year before losing in the first round to Chicago, then traded with Boston for stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in building a roster worth $193 million.
Whether that pays off with a deeper playoff run will be decided Sunday against a club whose payroll is about $68 million.
Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson scored 17 points while Garnett added 13 points and five rebounds and Pierce contributed 12 points and six rebounds.
Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan netted a game-high 28 points while Kyle Lowry, who had 36 points in the Raptors’ game six win, had only 11 points Friday on 4-of-16 shooting.
The Raptors seek their first playoff series triumph since 2001.