For the Nets to avoid having to start their offseason, there's only one solution.
"We've got to come out and hold serve at home," coach Lionel Hollins said Thursday in advance of Friday night's Game 6 against the Hawks at Barclays Center. "I think it has been a thrilling series, and if we hold serve at home and extend it to a seventh game, anything can happen."
Through the first five games of their Eastern Conference first-round series, home is the only place where the Nets have been truly able to make things happen. Both of their wins have come in Brooklyn, and they are in dire need of a repeat performance.
Otherwise, the team with the league's highest payroll will bow out after squeaking into the playoffs on the very last day of the season, when they got in thanks to the Pacers' loss to Hollins' old team, the Grizzlies.
"Just because we are home doesn't mean it's going to be easy," Hollins said. "We have to go out and play."
Hollins said the Nets have to tighten things up defensively, especially on their pick-and-roll coverage. The Hawks gave the Nets fits running it at the end of their Game 5 win Wednesday night, and point guard Jeff Teague was extremely efficient during the game-deciding 10-2 run that put them away.
Teague, Al Horford and Kyle Korver have rightfully garnered most of the attention during the series, but DeMarre Carroll has burned the Nets for 66 points in the past three games, going 25-for-42 from the field. He's shooting 60 percent from three-point range, proving that he can do damage outside or inside.
"He's gone to the basket back door, he's driven to the basket,'' Hollins said. "We've got to do a better job there. When they are playing their pick-and-roll, somebody is getting a wide-open shot. He's happened to have been able to get those shots, and he's made them consistently since the first couple of games. It's not like it's a breakdown. Somebody is getting shots when we are trying to stop the ball from getting in the middle."
In a way, being pushed to the brink is nothing new for these Nets. They spent the last month of the season knowing they didn't have much room for error to punch a postseason ticket, but Hollins isn't banking on that providing any kind of mental boost.
"I don't think we have any unique edge because we've been grinding," Hollins said. "I mean, if that was the case, we would have won the series already. We just have to go out and win the next game."