Backs Against The Wall: Nets-Raptors Things To Watch

Patrick Patterson, Paul Pierce, Amir Johnson
The Nets hope to set up a Game 7 tonight. (AP)

The point guard.

Deron Williams; Amir Johnson
AP

In February 2011, the Nets followed through on a decision, choosing established talent over developing youth. The window to win began in two seasons, when they moved into Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They made that decision by trading away Derrick Favors, a 19-year-old with gobs of potential, and two first-round draft picks for explosive point guard Deron Williams.

Every decision since that day has been a continuation of that process. They’ve traded draft picks and cash left and right for experienced, proven veterans. They traded draft picks as far out as 2018 for players that could play the last games of their careers tonight. The future is now, and the future is never.

It all ties back to Williams, and Brooklyn’s choice to tighten their window with each passing transaction. The Nets traded for Williams in February 2011 to become the franchise’s Brooklyn face, and he’s done just that, just not in the way they’d expected or hoped. The team ebbs and flows with his mercurial talent, his balky ankles, and his inconsistent shooting. He’s led the team to incredible wins and been a non-factor in inconceivable losses.

He’s been outplayed in this series by Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who hit seven points in crunch time to stave off the Nets’ improbable 26-point comeback. Lowry’s 36 points in Game 5 nearly tripled Williams’s output in the same evening, and in a cruel, unfair twist, Williams’s best shot to fire back, in his best fourth quarter of the series, flew 30 feet over his head.

Now his team faces an elimination game in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season. It may not be fair to Williams, but this game — and a potential Game 7 — will forever characterize Williams’s impact. Is he the star point guard that can lead a furious comeback, or the unstable face of a glitzy, underachieving franchise?

We’ll find out at 7 P.M. EST.

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