- Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Deron Williams had the Brooklyn Nets speeding toward a Game 7 when suddenly everything stopped.

He had just crashed to the court with what looked like yet another ankle injury. Kevin Garnett waved for help, and Williams slowly began limping back toward the bench. Then he decided to stay in.

For all the big names and big salaries on the Nets, Williams knows they aren’t going anywhere unless he leads them.

Williams shook off his second-half injury to score 23 points and Brooklyn forced a seventh game in its first-round series by beating the Toronto Raptors 97-83 on Friday night.

“I think that just shows leadership and toughness, and that’s what he did tonight for us,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said.

Despite spraining his left ankle early in the third quarter, Williams dominated his matchup with Kyle Lowry and helped the Nets put it away with a 3-pointer with 1:13 left that made it 92-79.

Game 7 is Sunday in Toronto, with the winner advancing to face the defending champion Miami Heat.

It became the fourth first-round series ticketed for a do-or-die game in these playoffs, with the Atlantic Division champion Raptors trying to get by a Nets team that still has a chance to reach the high expectations it had entering the season.

But it can’t be done without Williams, who has scored 20 points in all three Nets victories in the series.

“I know myself, I needed to be more aggressive after the last two losses,” Williams, who has battled ankle problems the last two seasons, said after limping up to the postgame podium.

“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,” Williams added, “and so I know that’s what my team needs so me to do.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 28 for the Raptors, who will have to go the distance if they are to win a seven-game series for the first time in franchise history. They haven’t won any postseason series since 2001, and never really had a chance to wrap this one up after falling behind by 26 points.

“We should’ve known they were going to come out throwing haymakers and we weren’t ready for it until the second half,” DeRozan said.

Lowry shot 4 of 16 for 11 points after scoring 36 in the Raptors‘ Game 5 victory. He was the only other Toronto player in double figures.

Joe Johnson had 17 points and Kevin Garnett 13 for the Nets, who will play in a Game 7 for the second straight season. They fell to Chicago last year on their home floor and will try to win it this time in Toronto, where they won Game 1.

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