EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Still sitting on the cusp of elimination, clutching their playoff fate with their arms wrapped around a life preserver, the Nets are a confident group.
Even as they return to a place that's proved to be their personal House of Horrors, the latest flick being that triple-overtime classic that left them feeling numb last Saturday, they're talking as if they've regained their fortitude after halting their three-game skid Monday night. No matter that only eight teams have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to storm back and win a series in the NBA.
Gerald Wallace is sure the Nets are superior to the Bulls, this despite the Nets trailing 3-2 in their Eastern Conference first-round series that continues at the United Center Thursday night.
"I think we are. I think all-around, we are a better team than they are one through five," Wallace said after the Nets wrapped up practice Wednesday. "We've got to establish our bigs and kind of dominate from the inside, start inside-out and that's kind of the way our team is built. We go inside-out, and we are able to get in transition and we are able to pick teams apart that way."
Wallace wasn't alone in his assertion. So what if the Bulls have beaten the Nets in six of nine meetings, which includes their regular-season tussles? Who cares if the Nets are winless in these last four tries in the Windy City?
This time, though, they're looking to deliver a crushing roundhouse right that has the Bulls laying on the canvas late in the fourth quarter at home, rather than dancing around and throwing the subtle jabs that Chicago shakes off.
Finishing the job in Chicago is a task that thus far has escaped the Nets, and in order for this series to get extended, that'll have to change immediately.
"We haven't played a 48-minute game," Wallace said. "I think we get too relaxed, too content and we kind of let them get away with playing their style of ball at home. The last game, we took them out of what they really wanted to do until the last five minutes of the game. They made some shots at the end. We just have to play defense for 48 minutes."
Blatche seemed fairly sure things would be different in Chicago this time around.
"All our players have confidence right now," he said. "We put ourselves in the hole. We are digging out of it. We know if we lose another game, we are going home and nobody's ready to go home. Everybody's been focused and everybody is going to continue to fight. So, I feel we are going to go in there and take care of business and have a Game 7."
Notes & quotes: Reggie Evans (illness) didn't practice, but traveled with the team and is expected to play . . . Kirk Hinrich (calf), Luol Deng (illness) and Taj Gibson (illness) didn't practice for the Bulls.