EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They were loose, joking around with each other as they normally do.
Keith Bogans threw a towel in Joe Johnson’s face while he was conducting interviews. Gerald Wallace was getting on Johnson about some of their friendly shooting practice battles, perhaps wanting another crack at him.
For a team that’s hours away from playing in one of the biggest games in franchise history and easily their most important since moving to Brooklyn this season, the Nets surely didn’t seem tight.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be bubbling with emotions later, though, when it gets closer to tipoff for the pivotal Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Bulls at the Barclays Center Saturday night.
“I think before every game, guys tend to have butterflies,” Johnson said before the team’s shootaround at the PNY Center. “I know I do, regardless of whether it’s a Game 7 or Game 1, because you always want to come out and put on your best performance, especially in a game like this because there’s no tomorrow. So, I’m sure everybody we’ll be kind of geeked up so to speak to come out and put on a great performance.”
The trick, however, is remaining even-keeled despite the game’s magnitude. No sweat, says Kris Humphries.
“It’s the same emotions. We’ve been win or go home for the last two games,” he said. “So, same approach. We’ve got to win the game. There’s not much to it. Execute. It comes down to playing hard and getting after balls that are loose, playing physical."
Of course, the Nets are attempting to become just the ninth NBA team to come all the way back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. They’ve aware of that, having been reminded of it several times already.
“It would mean a lot, especially here at home,” Johnson said. “So, I think we definitely have an advantage. I don’t think we are paying attention to as far as how many teams have come back down 3-1. We’ve been confident from the start of this series, and our main focus right now is Game 7, and just trying to come out and hit first.”
Humphries had another take on what it would feel like to join a rare club by storming back from a 3-1 deficit. As he pointed out, “Well, it really doesn’t mean - - - - unless we win.”
The hurting Bulls are going to be without Luol Deng, who’s still in a Chicago hospital, as well as Kirk Hinrich. By the end of the night, their season could very well be over. Same goes for the Nets, who are eager to win the franchise’s first Game 7.
“It’s a long day. There will be great emotion,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “Since last Saturday, it’s kind of been working to put ourselves in position to have this game tonight and now we’ve just got to tale advantage of it. It’s as simple as that. The good news is it’s in our building. The bad news is it’s not going to be a for a long time. It’s going to be a long day, but I’m sure both teams are looking forward to it and you don’t get a lot of these.
“In the old days, there were Game 5s in the first round, and obviously, the sevens after that. You don’t get a lot of Game 7s, so they are special and I think it’s an opportunity for guys to step up. Literally, what we’ve been facing the last couple of days, the difference this time is we get a reward to go with it. The last two games, it’s been if we lose, we put the uniforms away. That’s still the case tonight, but you win, you get a trip to Miami. So, it’s nice.”