The Brooklyn Nets didn’t need any extra motivation from Chicago’s beat writers in Monday night’s game at Barclays Center, they understood the gravity of the moment: Win, or go home. It was as simple as that, and for a team who was reportedly called “heartless and gutless” by Bulls players, the Nets displayed plenty of grit in holding off a Chicago team playing without Kirk Hinrich, 110-91, and will now live to fight another day.
P.J. Carlisemo, still auditioning to keep the role of head coach next season, showed his players the clip of the Bulls reporter making the claim of the Nets being “heartless” but face-of-the franchise Deron Williams said the team already had the motivation it needed.
“We didn’t need that,” said Williams, who finished with 23 points and 10 assists. “That’s not why [we won]. P.J. wanted us to watch it, and we were sitting in there after it was over like, ‘That’s it?’ What are we supposed to do now? [Yell] we’re mad?’
“That stuff doesn’t mean anything. We wanted to win the game for us and for our fans and for a chance to extend our season. We didn’t want to go fishing. We didn’t want to be on TNT with the hats on, and Chuck talking about it.”
Chicago head back to the confines of the United Center with a 3-2 lead in the series and an opportunity to close out on front of their manic fans, but the Nets need one more victory to set up the biggest game yet in the Barclays Center’s brief existence.
If you ask the Nets players, they feel they are – and have been – the better team. They’ve led by double-digits in four of the five games, a lack of a consistent effort over 48 minutes being their downfall. Forward Gerald Wallace (12 points, 2 blocks) is confident the Nets can become just the ninth team to overturn a 3-1 deficit and win the series.
“Our backs are against the wall right now,” Wallace said. “We have a fighting spirit and we’re a fighting team. We’re not ready to go home. We feel like we’re better than this team. We just had some games slip away. We feel like we’re good enough and a better team that we can come back and win three in a row just like they did.”
Brooklyn held an 8 point lead at the half time break (52-44) and had the lead into double digits a few times in the third quarter but, notorious for their second half fadeouts this season, never seemed to be totally in control of the game. Chicago managed to claw back within 4 at the three quarter time break. Instead of folding, the Nets flourished during the last stanza outscoring the Bulls 33-18.
Brooklyn out-rebounded the Bulls, 44-33, and led the fastbreak point discrepancy by 21-9.
It wasn’t clear if the Nets could put the heartbreak of the Game 4 loss behind them but they did, now they must put the jubilation of Game 5 victory to the side and focus on the task at hand: Winning in a hostile environment.
“Every game is an elimination game and every game is a big win for us, from here on out,” said Williams. “If we attack it that way, it’s not over. But we’ve got a tough game in Chicago. We know they’re going to be ready to play, they’ve got a tough crowd and they’re going to try to end the series.”
The Nets again know the gravity of the situation. Once again they’ll find themselves responding to a heart-and-gut check.