Stars are inevitably going to litter the court of the Air Canada Centre on Sunday when the Brooklyn Nets try to continue the success they experienced in a 97-83 Game 6 victory by beating the Toronto Raptors in a win-or-go-home contest.
Kyle Lowry is in one corner, running the point for the Raptors and attempting to gain an opportunity to feature his bulldog mentality in a second-round series with the Miami Heat. On the other end is Deron Williams, who's trying to prove that he's by no means washed up and remains fully capable of playing like an All-Star.
These two impressive talents—who ranked No. 6 and No. 12, respectively, in my point guard rankings for the B/R NBA 200 series—will be spending quite a bit of time going head to head with one another, and you shouldn't take your eyes off either of them when they're on the court.
Maybe I'm making the dreadful mistake of drawing too much causation from correlation, but both teams seem to follow the same trend as their floor general.
|ESPN Game Logs|
In Game 6, it was D-Will's turn to shine.
He finished the contest with 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal on 8-of-16 shooting from the field. Four of his makes came from beyond the arc, including a dagger of a three-pointer that officially ended any hope Toronto still possessed of a frantic comeback.
From start to finish, Williams was in control of this game, pulling up for devastating jumpers and imposing his will on the pace. If you squinted hard enough, you could see flashes of the point guard who played for the Utah Jazz and was commonly considered one of the true elites at his position, right up there with Chris Paul.
All of a sudden, the oft-injured 1-guard turned into a sniper brimming over with confidence, which you could see bubble forth on this pull-up three in transition.
That takes confidence.
It takes guts and a pair of somethings Sam Cassell might dance about to elevate for a three-pointer with a man bearing down on you, four opponents waiting for a rebound opportunity and no one on your team even in the same zip code.
Of course Jay-Z and Beyonce ended up looking on with approval. Why wouldn't they?
Based on the way Williams played, it's almost as though he was hanging out around the Barclays Center before the game and caught a glimpse of a certain poster.
Williams certainly wasn't missing during Game 6.
Whoever taped that up to the post has to be feeling good about the creativity, but timing is the key to any comedic attempt. And this timing was just horrific.
Perhaps it's Lowry who should've drawn the poster treatment instead.
The should've-been All-Star struggled to find his shot throughout the loss, one that wasn't really as close as the final score indicated. He finished the contest with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists on 4-of-16 shooting from the field.
That was basically a death knell for the Raptors, especially on a night in which Jonas Valanciunas decided not to show up until the second half. When the big man scores only nine points, and no one but DeRozan can break past the 10-point barrier, Lowry simply can't be off his game—not if Toronto wants to have any shot at winning.
Going back to Game 5, though, the story was reversed.
It was Lowry drawing positive headlines after his 36-point performance. And as John Schuhmann made perfectly clear for NBA.com's Hang Time Blog, he completely outplayed his counterpart in a Brooklyn uniform:
Lowry did most of his first-half damage (21 points) from the perimeter, making something out of nothing on several possessions and completely outplaying Deron Williams.
In fact, as Williams committed two turnovers in the final minute of the second quarter, Lowry capped a 26-4 Raptors run by hitting a floater in traffic and then a ridiculous running 3-pointer off the glass at the buzzer.
And when the Nets had come all the way back from 26 down, it was Lowry who drew a brutal foul on Mirza Teletovic 80 feet from the basket to put the Raptors back ahead. He followed that up by drawing a charge on Alan Anderson and, when the game was tied again two minutes later, he hit a gutsy, step-back three to give his team the lead for good.
While Williams was unaggressive, taking only eight shots from the field throughout the crazy game, Lowry went 11-of-19 and hit six of his nine attempts that came from downtown.
The highlight? That's easy.
Between that play and the lone turnover to his name, Lowry created a point guard disparity just as large as the one the world witnessed during Game 6.
The two floor generals have traded blows throughout this first-round series, and that won't change for the finale, which is sure to appease neutral fans if it's anywhere near as entertaining as the vast majority of this matchup has been.
So long as the ankle D-Will rolled during the first half and aggravated later on doesn't hold him back, you can expect to see plenty of action between him and Lowry.
Quite simply, they've played like the best and most important players on their respective teams. More often than not, they are, with no disrespect meant to the All-Stars and former All-Stars who litter the two rosters.
Everyone on the court will obviously matter—some more than others—but there's no better barometer than this battle of ball-handlers.
So, Lowry or Williams. Who ya got?
The answer likely determines who gets to take on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the two-time defending champions in the next round.