The televisions in the player's lounge attached to the Nets' spacious locker room were tuned into the only thing that mattered following the Nets' 101-88 victory over the Magic Wednesday night, yet Lionel Hollins insisted he wasn't sticking around to get his late-night television fix.
After taking down Orlando and keeping their hopes alive for a first-round playoff matchup with the top-seeded Hawks, the Nets were hoping for the Grizzlies to beat the Pacers in Memphis, an outcome that would have solidified the Nets' postseason ticket. But Hollins was doing his best not to sweat it. Or at least pretend he wasn't about to anyway.
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"Will I be on the edge of my seat watching the game? Yeah," Hollins said before heading home. "But I'm not sitting there worried like if they don't win. There is nothing I can do. But I'll be watching. Maybe."
Turned out Hollins' former employer provided the Nets (38-44) with the requisite help, securing a 95-83 win over Indiana to drop the Pacers into a tie with Brooklyn for eighth place in the conference. But by virtue of the Nets' 2-1 season series edge over the Pacers, the Nets won the tiebreaker and find themselves in the postseason for third straight year.
They will meet the Hawks at 5:30 p.m. Sunday in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series. Atlanta won the season series 4-0, pounding the Nets by an average of 17.3 points.
"Last time, we played them pretty good," Thaddeus Young said, referring to their 111-108 loss to the Hawks in Brooklyn. "We went down to the wire. If we could play them the way we played them last time, just moving the ball, giving them a taste of their own medicine, when we're just moving, driving, kicking, the ball starts sticking to everybody's hands, we're just executing, I think we'll be fine in the series."
Wednesday night, the Nets nearly choked away their chance, needing a big fourth quarter to pull ahead of an Orlando team that was without Half Hollow Hills West product Tobias Harris (sore Achilles), Evan Fournier (core issue) and Luke Ridnour (didn't travel with team). A 17-5 run in the closing minutes broken open a game in which the Nets came out tight and trailed by as many as 12 points.
They were down 80-77 with 10:37 remaining before finding a sustainable offensive rhythm and started getting after it more defensively. Bojan Bogdanovic almost single-handedly kept them in it, pacing the Nets with a career-high 28 points off the bench. Young and Joe Johnson added 16 points apiece for the Nets.
Nikola Vucevic had 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for Orlando (25-57), giving the Nets fits inside. But at least they won't be having visions of a disappointment dancing in their heads and got back on track just in time to back into the postseason after losing two of their last three games in blowout fashion.
"Man, we've kind of shot ourselves in the foot so many time this year," Johnson said. "And then to have control of and lose by 25, 30 points against two playoff teams, it's just tough. It's tough man. It's tough for me to say. We had a rough year this year. Simple as that."
Notes & quotes: Deron Williams and Johnson each shrugged off Paul Pierce's critical comments made in an ESPN.com article. Pierce questioned Williams' leadership, Johnson's demeanor and said the Nets would have folded if it wasn't for him and Kevin Garnett. Williams said he didn't have an issue with Pierce's verbal jabs. "Not bothered at all, man," he said. "Being here, I've got pretty thick skin. So he has his opinions and that's fine." Johnson said: "Honestly, man, it doesn't bother me. I've been criticized before. That's not the first time, definitely won't be the last. It doesn't bother me one way or another. I swear. If that's how Paul felt, that's how Paul felt. He's entitled to his opinion." . . . Alan Anderson missed his seventh straight game nursing a sprained left ankle and still had a slight limp. He told Newsday he expects to be available for the series opener Sunday.