There's a reason why only eight teams in NBA history have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, and the Nets will come face-to-face with that reality Saturday night at Barclays Center. Although Chicago's roster has been decimated by injury and illness, the Bulls forced the Nets to fight tooth and nail for victories in Games 5 and 6 to even their first-round series at 3-3 and force Game 7.
The tendency in these situations is to relax after climbing out of the hole. But needing one more victory to advance to the second round, the Nets have to play as aggressively as they did to pull even.
No one is more aware of that than interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who addressed that very subject after the Nets' 95-92 win Thursday night in Chicago. "We talked about it in the locker room after the game and we'll address it again [Saturday morning]," Carlesimo said Friday on a conference call. "That's a big concern to continue the desperation with which we've played.
"We certainly can't think we've done the hard part. What's left is going to be more difficult than the last two games."
The grittiness of the Bulls is unquestioned. Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson played in Game 6 with the flu. Forward Luol Deng was unable to play, and Friday he used his Twitter account to say it wasn't just the flu.
Deng said he had a spinal tap on Wednesday to test for viral meningitis. Deng wrote that he "suffered the worst headache I ever experienced and been the weakest I ever felt." He expects to join the Bulls in Brooklyn, though a hospital stay the night before the game was possible.
Kirk Hinrich, who missed the past two games after suffering a serious calf injury, also hopes to play in Game 7. Asked how Hinrich might change things, Carlesimo said it depends on how healthy he really is.
"It should be a big plus for Chicago," Carlesimo said. "We know who they are now. Whoever is out there, we respect them all. But even if they all play, we're good enough to beat them."