P.J. Carlesimo on Nets' Game 7: 'I'm confident'
In a season featuring a flurry of firsts, a trend the franchise hopes signals an upward trend after setting roots in Brooklyn, it seems only natural that the Nets are set for another.
As in hosting their first Game 7. Ever.
A series against the Chicago Bulls filled with dizzying twists and turns, exhausting endings and eye-popping performances concludes at Barclays Center on Saturday night. One game. Winner heads to South Beach to meet LeBron and the Heat. Beach vacations await the losers.
"You certainly can't be afraid of it," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said Friday, a day after the Nets extended their Eastern Conference first-round series with a 95-92 win in Game 6 in Chicago. "I don't think it's something that you overthink. They understand the importance of this game and they need to be relaxed. They need to go out and they need to just play the way they are capable of playing.
"Relaxed and confident is the most important thing."
After falling into a 3-1 series hole exactly a week ago, leaving them on the brink of emptying their lockers and beginning a disappointing summer, that'll be a key to watch for the Nets: handling the emotional toll from a season-defining game.
"I've never played in a Game 7," Gerald Wallace said right after Game 6.
C.J. Watson looked toward the ceiling for a second or two as he thought about it: "No, first one."
Clawing back wasn't easy, but completing the final step typically is the most arduous task. Only eight NBA teams (out of 210) have won a series after trailing 3-1. Still, that leaves Carlesimo unfazed.
"Just because I've got a ton of confidence in these guys," he said. "They've been resilient. We've stepped up all year, many, many times when people didn't think we could step up. We've played well on the road. We've beaten a lot of the better teams in the league and I'm confident.
"The reward for the way we played in the regular season is that Game 7 in the first round is in our building. So I'm just very confident our guys are going to take advantage of the opportunity and do what they've done all year."
Only once previously in their NBA history have the Nets played in a Game 7, a 90-69 loss in Detroit in 2004. The Bulls are 0-6 in Game 7s on the road, and, just like the Nets, have visions of keeping their postseason afloat.
"The pressure is on both teams," Wallace said. "We are the better team in the series. We had home-court advantage; they stole it from us. We were supposed to dominate this series and be on into the next series. And then the pressure is on them. They were up 3-1, they were supposed to have finished us off by now, and we've forced a Game 7.
"Their backs are against the wall, just like our backs are against the wall, so it's whoever wants it more."