Nets head coach Steve Nash looks on during the first...

Nets head coach Steve Nash looks on during the first quarter of Round 1 Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs at TD Garden on April 17, 2022 in Boston. Credit: Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

After Game 1 the Brooklyn Nets had to answer questions about how Kyrie Irving would handle the venomous crowd. And after another loss in Game 2,  they were unable to explain why Kevin Durant, the most skilled scorer in the NBA, maybe in league history, was suddenly unable to get on track.

Home again at Barclays Center the focus — and the blame — wasn’t focused Saturday on the Nets stars. Steve Nash insisted that there would be no change in the rotation with Ben Simmons still at least a game away. So it was on him to provide a tweak here, an adjustment there and mostly to provide a glimmer of hope to a team that was not long ago the favorite to win the NBA championship.

Now facing a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven opening-round series as they returned to Barclays Center, the Nets didn’t have that bold take Saturday morning, but Nash, having been through this as a player, was not showing panic.

“This is the fun part of the playoffs, going game to game against the same team,” Nash said. “Everyone knows what everyone is doing and trying to make small adjustments that tip things in your favor from possession to possession. That’s one of the enjoyable parts of being in a playoff environment. 

“And then there’s all that other stuff as well, the mental and the emotional, all those components I really enjoy as well. To be mentally strong. To have that mentality of persevering and wining and overcoming is always the funnest. That’s why this is the funnest time of year.”

Fun might be a strange way to describe the profane-laced heartbreak of Game 1 or the collapse in Game 2. But whether it was Durant’s calm postgame demeanor after the second loss in Boston or Nash’s thoughts Saturday morning the Nets remained confident.

And maybe it was with good reason. Not only were the Nets back home, but they had performed well enough to win in each of the two games in Boston — losing the first game on a last-second bucket by Jayson Tatum and squandering a 17-point lead in the second game. These were issues throughout much of the season as the Nets struggled to get the seventh seed in the playoffs despite the lofty expectations. 

“I think for us [it's] sustaining the effort we had in game two for the full 48 [minutes],” Andre Drummond said. “We have a tough time in those third quarters coming out where they start going on runs and we can’t sustain that energy they bring. So we just have to do a better job of playing them to the best of our abilities and keeping that same energy from the beginning of the game throughout the rest of the game.

“I wasn’t here for what was going on before. I can just comment on what was happening. For us, just coming out with the energy, I think get the hit first. I think we allowed them to hit first in those third quarters. It’s tough to come back on a good team like that when they have a run like that, especially at home for them. I think for us today we have to sustain the energy, withstand the runs — because they are going to go on runs — and come out with a win. It’s as simple as that.”

But the Celtics approached this shift of cities confident, too, that they can be better.

“Every [next] game is the biggest game,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said. “And so with us, we understand the urgency on their side and we have to match that intensity, do what we've done so far and do it better because we felt we haven't played the full game yet ourselves. And so understanding that they're going to come out with a sense of urgency, we have to match that. But the reason we're optimistic is because we can get a lot better in a lot of areas. And so as well as we've done it, we can take it to another level ourselves.”

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