Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce give Nets winning attitude
TORONTO - This is why he did it.
When Billy King parted with three first-round draft picks and also shipped five players to Boston last summer, giving up what some thought might be too much in plucking a pair of aging superstars, it was for the very moments that will take place at Air Canada Centre Sunday afternoon.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce exude a certain championship attitude, the unmistakable aura that wafts around someone who has experienced the big moments.
So when the Nets look to win a Game 7 for the first time in franchise history, eager to erase the memories of their poor performance against the Bulls in the deciding game a year ago, they'll be grateful to have Pierce and Garnett on their side. They hope it will help put them over the top in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
"Yeah, definitely," Joe Johnson said after Friday night's 97-83 Game 6 win. "They've been through every battle they can possibly go through in the playoffs, so those guys have been tested and know how to handle certain situations. It's great to have those guys on the floor."
Perhaps that championship moxie has rubbed off on Andray Blatche, who has morphed into Broadway Joe Namath and keeps blurting out guarantees.
He assured everyone Friday morning that the Nets would win Game 6, and when they did just that, he picked up where he left off, insisting that they will be bound for South Beach sometime later Sunday to get ready to meet the two-time defending champion Heat in the conference semifinals beginning Tuesday.
"We guarantee it," Blatche said. "We're going to take care of business and go to Miami."
The Raptors weren't impressed.
"We're going to see what happens," guard Greivis Vasquez told reporters here Saturday. "I don't know who does he think he is. He's not KG or Paul Pierce or Jason Kidd. But you know, we're not going to listen to his nonsense. He's got to earn that and he hasn't yet. We aren't really focused [on] that. We've got to play so much better than we did [Friday] night. Game 7, win or go home."
If you're going strictly by experience, the Nets easily outdistance the young Raptors, a card they'll surely try to play whenever possible on the court. Pierce is the headliner, having competed in eight Game 7s, which is tops among the Nets and one more than the combined number of Game 7s among all Raptors. Overall, the Nets' roster has a total 27 Game 7s played in, and it's just one of the advantages that could fall in the Nets' favor.
As the Nets witnessed a year ago, so many things can happen in season-deciding games. Nothing, to use Blatche's words, is guaranteed.
"It's a similar situation," Deron Williams said. "We're on the road, but it's a Game 7. We definitely remember that game, but like I've said, this is a new team. I've said it a million times. This is a new team, a new season. We're excited about this opportunity. I've been on a team that can win a Game 7 before, so it can be done. It's going to take a lot of grit and we've got to be ready to go, like Paul said, into a hostile environment."
It's time to see what kind of lessons have been learned by Williams & Co. and precisely what the additions of Garnett and Pierce will do in one of the most pressure-packed situations in all off sports. It's win or immediately start making vacation plans.
"This is a different team," Johnson said. "We're a different team and we're playing a different team. Game 7 is Game 7. You can't put too much on it. We'll come out and be the more physical team."