INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Nets square off against the Pacers Friday night, P.J. Carlesimo is expecting a tense atmosphere that should rival what they’ll see in a little over a week.
“They still have a chance to catch New York,” the interim coach said prior to the Nets shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “So yeah, I think it will be very much like a playoff game.”
With the Nets’ crosstown rivals dropping a tough loss to Bulls -- the very team the Nets may wind up playing in the postseason -- in Chicago Thursday night, that opened the door for Indiana to still possibly reach the Eastern Conference’s second seed. The Pacers currently sit two games behind the Knicks.
The Nets, who will be without Gerald Wallace’s services against Indiana as he nurses the left foot contusion suffered in Boston Wednesday, are fighting to lock themselves into the fourth slot. That, mind you, would guarantee homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
And don’t think for a second that they haven’t gone over all this.
“They know all those scenarios, so it’s just a game against a very good team in their own building,” Carlesimo said. “It’s a team we beat twice. It’s a big game for them, so we need to bring energy. It will be more like a playoff game than any of the games we have left.”
That’s why the Nets want to really start fine-tuning things, picking up where they left off in their pasting of the Celtics two days ago.
“Just this last little stretch is really important for us, just because there’s a possibility we can get the third seed,” Deron Williams said. “There’s a slim chance, but it’s a possibility and then we want to hold onto this fourth seed so we have homecourt advantage. I think all those things, with the playoffs coming up, this is when you want to be playing your best basketball.
“So, that’s what we are trying to do.”
Of course, if they can emerge victorious in their final four contests, the Nets will hit the big five-oh for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign, the season they were swept by Shaq and the Lakers in the Finals. Williams would like to see the Nets turn 50.
“Fifty wins, a lot of guys have played their whole career and have never won 50 games,” Williams said. “So, 50 is a great number.”