Despite suffering an ankle injury early in the third quarter, D-Will played 38 minutes and scored 23 points — including a dagger three with just over a minute to go — to lead the Nets to a 97-84 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of their first round playoff series. Brooklyn’s win forced a Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday.

Afterward, No. 8 continued to talk about being more aggressive, something he’s been able to do in leading Brooklyn to three wins in the series.

“I knew I needed to be more aggressive after the last two losses,” Deron said. “In the three games we’ve won, I’ve been really aggressive, getting into the paint, making things happen, not only scoring the ball but making the extra pass. I know that’s what my team needs me to do so I kind of wanted to come out early an establish that.”

Deron accomplished that mission on Friday night and it allowed the Nets to lead from wire-to-wire, making them the first team to do in the series.

D-Will’s aggressive drives set up his teammates early as Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all score in the first four minutes of the game to give Brooklyn an early lead.

“He’s a hell of a point guard to slow down,” Toronto’s Demar DeRozan said of D-Will. “He’s great at rejecting screens, using screens with his crossover, getting into the lane, making us collapse on the defensive end and then we have to close out the shooters. We have to keep him under control so we won’t get caught in rotations.”

Deron knocked threes early and late to help push Brooklyn to a Game 6 win to keep their season alive (Getty Images).

No. 8 mashed the pedal to the metal midway through the quarter when he created his own first bucket of the game with a drive for a nifty reverse layup. Moments later, after Alan Anderson pulled down a defensive board, D-Will got the Nets out in transition and used a Pierce screen to create an open three from the left wing, which he buried to put Brooklyn in front 14-8 and force a Toronto timeout.

“Tonight was a great team win, led by Deron. He really set the tone on both ends of the court,” Pierce said after the game. “I think that just opened up things for everybody.”

The timeout by the Raptors did little to stall Brooklyn’s momentum. With D-Will creating havoc for the Toronto defense, the Nets went to work on the inside to extend their lead with Andray Blatche and Johnson serving as the catalysts. Deron got Pierce into the act as well, finding the cutting forward for a driving layup that put Brooklyn ahead 25-14 with 3:21 left in the first.

While deflecting credit for the team’s success inside, D-Will noted that the play of his teammates in the post, particularly rebounding — Brooklyn outrebounded Toronto for the first time in the series — was crucial to the victory.

“Our inside presence is huge, offensively and defensively,” he said. “Offensively we went to Dray a lot, we got to Joe a lot in the post. Defensively, we have to rebound against this team. They’re a bigger, more athletic team and we have to do a good job keeping them off the offensive boards. We did a great job of that tonight.”

With defensive boards by the Nets came more transition opportunities and Deron made the most of those as well. Late in the first, after a rebound by Blatche, No. 8 hooked up Pierce for a three from the left wing that sent Brooklyn’s lead to 14, 30-16. They led by as much as 16 in the quarter and held a 34-19 edge after one.

“I like to play an up-tempo style of basketball, so when we can get some stops and get the ball out in transition,” Deron said. “I definitely think it suits my style of play, but I also think it helps our offense when they can’t set up their defense and we move the ball really well.”

D-Will identified transition scoring opportunities as a key to victory for the Nets (Getty Images).

The Nets reserves maintained the lead for the first few minutes of the second quarter, but when reserve point guard Shaun Livingston picked up his third foul just over three minutes into the quarter, Coach Jason Kidd was forced to bring Deron back into the game and with him went Andray Blatche and Joe Johnson.

Twenty seconds after they both returned to the floor, Johnson fed D-Will for a jumper that pushed Brooklyn’s lead back to 15. That kicked off an 11-3 run, during which Deron had a hand in nine of the Nets points. After his bucket from Johnson, No. 8 answered a three from Toronto’s Patrick Patterson with a drive that resulted in a pair of free throws, of which he made both.

“In the first couple games [Deron] was attacking and then in Game 5, in that fourth quarter he was getting the ball in the paint,” Kidd said. “We feel that when the ball touches the paint, something good happens and I think we reminded him and reminded the team about being aggressive. Deron did that while he was on the floor. He had a lot of great looks. He was aggressive on both ends.”

After a Raptors turnover, D-Will found Anderson for a deuce that moved Brooklyn ahead 46-30. Exactly one minute later, a Toronto miss resulted in another transition opportunity and Deron once again had the ball in his hands, but this time he took the shot for himself and buried a three from the right wing to give the Nets their largest lead of the night, 49-30, with 5:11 left in the half.

At halftime, the Nets held a 60-41 lead, their largest first half point total of the series. Deron led the scoring charge with 12 first half points.  After the game, Coach Kidd lauded the play and professionalism of his point man, who had been the subject of much criticism in the lead up to Game 6.

“We’re professionals and everybody has a right to their opinion and this just shows what type of player Deron is and what he is about,” Kidd said. “He stood up to whatever was said and responded with one of his best games.”

D-Will continued his aggressive play in the third quarter but it nearly cost him.

Deron's aggressiveness in penetrating to either score his own baskets or kick to teammates was a catalyst (Getty Images).

He sank his first shot, a mid-range jumper off a feed from Pierce less than one minute into the quarter, but missed his next two, both threes. After a Toronto miss, Pierce pushed it ahead and Deron decided that rather than settle he’d try to drive through for an easier two. But as he drove through the lane at Toronto’s Terrence Ross, the two players’ feet got tangled and Deron landed awkwardly on his left ankle. He yelled out in pain and was down on the court for over a minute before getting up and appearing to be unable to put weight on the ankle.

“I just twisted my ankle. I was coming down, going to the basket. I don’t know if I stepped one somebody’s foot or not, but I just rolled my ankle,” he said. “I got it pretty good.”

As teammates tried to help Deron back to the sideline, Kidd came out to remind them that D-Will was fouled on the play and if he did not take the subsequent free throws he could not stay in the game.

“If he had to come out, I didn’t want him to walk all the way over to the bench,” Kidd said. “I wanted to keep him walking around and also shorten his walk. We wanted him to shoot the free throws and then we were going to foul if we had to [get him out].”

With that in mind, Kidd called a timeout and during that timeout, Deron walked around on the injured ankle, then walked back to the huddle and declared himself fit to continue.

“Deron showed a lot of heart, a lot of grit,” teammate Kevin Garnett said. “He was beat up a little bit but he sucked it up and got through it. My hat goes off to him. He could have took another route you know? But that’s our leader. I thought he showed great poise and he gritted through.”

D-Will made one of his two free throws, but told Kidd that the team did not need to foul and he could continue on in the game.

“I just wanted to stay in there. I was able to kind of walk it off. I think that’s the best thing [to do],” he said. “If I would’ve went and sat down, I would’ve set it back and it’s hard to come back out after that.”

Despite pain that often left him limping, D-Will continued to play effectively in the second half (Getty Images).

It didn’t take No. 8 long to prove he was OK. Just one minute of game time after the injury, he took a feed from Anderson and buried a corner three to push Brooklyn’s lead to 23 points.

“Deron showed that he’s a warrior. He sprains his ankle, comes back, shoots the free throws and doesn’t want to come out of the game,” Kidd said. “I think that just shows leadership and toughness. That’s what he did tonight for us.”

A minute after his big trey, D-Will had a hand in pushing Brooklyn’s lead to its peak for the night, when he found Pierce for a triple that made it 71-45 Nets with less than five minutes gone by in the third.

Toronto made a run to cut their deficit back down to 18, but Deron stalled their surge with a mid-range jumper that pushed the Brooklyn lead back to 20 with 1:40 to go in the third. After three, the Nets led 79-59.

Kidd give Deron as much rest time as he could in the fourth, but when the Raptors managed to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 11 with 7:40 remaining in the game, he had to bring D-Will and Johnson both back in.

The duo managed to stabilize things for the Nets, mostly on the defensive end, where No. 8 starred all night, limiting Toronto’s Kyle Lowry to just 11 points on 4-of-16 from the field.

“He really got up on Lowry and made him drive,” Pierce said. “And he went back at him on offense.”

Not to go unnoticed was Deron's defense on Kyle Lowry, who scored just 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting (Getty Images).

Still the Nets did need one last dose of offense from D-Will after Lowry’s driving layup cut the lead to 10 with 2:49 to go. During a Toronto timeout a few seconds later, Kidd drew up a play that would get the Nets that last basket they needed.

After a Toronto miss, Deron took the ball across the halfcourt line and dished to Johnson along the perimeter. The two ran a pick and roll that didn’t work, and Deron dished off to D-Will, then set a screen that got D-Will loose.

No. 8 then dribbled above the screen of Toronto’s Patrick Patterson and got to the right wing where he was wide open for a trey that hit the back of the rim and went down with 1:13 remaining, effectively ending the Raptors hopes for a comeback.

Kidd said after the game that his confidence in Deron never wavered and expressed trust in his point with his play calling late in the game.

“I believe and everyone in that locker room believes in Deron, Joe, Paul or whoever the play is for, to knock down their shot,” Kidd said. “Deron came wide open and did what he was supposed to do. He knocked down a big three. We trust in one another and executed the play.”

The Barclays Center crowd went crazy after Deron's three with 1:13 remaining.

Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game gave Deron an A+ game grade for his Game 6 performance and summarized the dagger three as a bit of redemption for D-Will from his fourth quarter troubles early in the series.

Williams has had issues in the fourth quarter all season, but darted around a screen and buried a three-pointer to put his team up 13 with about 75 seconds left, all but sealing the game right there. In a series where D-Will’s had question marks in every game, on the brink of elimination, he put together a real-live killer performance.

NEXT UP

The series comes down to one more do-or-die game for the Nets, as they head on the road for the series finale on Sunday in Toronto.

It will be the third Game 7 of Deron’s NBA career. The most recent one came last year when he scored 24 points in Brooklyn’s 99-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center in Game 7 of their first round series. Sunday’s game in Toronto will be exactly one year to the day. But Deron noted that although the situations are similar, the Nets are a much different team from a year ago.

“It’s a similar situation. We’re on the road [this time] but it is a Game 7. We definitely remember that game [last year],” he said. “But I’ve said many times, this is a new team, a new season and I’m excited about this opportunity. I’ve been on a team that’s won a Game 7 on the road before, so it can be done.”

That team was the 2006-2007 Utah Jazz during Deron’s sophomore season in the NBA. The Jazz went seven games with the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2007 playoffs and won the deciding game in Houston, 103-99 behind a 20-point 14-assist night from D-Will.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work and we have to be ready to go into a hostile environment,” Deron said of winning a Game 7 on the road.

He doesn’t expect his ankle injury to be an issue in helping the Nets make that happen.

“I’m going to get a lot of treatment between now and the game and I should be ready to go,” he said.

Game 7 between the Nets and Raptors is slated for 1 p.m. ET on Sunday and can be seen nationwide on ABC.

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