Brian ErniDesperate. That’s what the Nets are heading into Game 5 on Wednesday night. So far this postseason, it’s been a good look on them, but there’s a big difference between the Raptors and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
With their backs to the wall in the first round, the Nets won two straight, including a Game 7 on the road, to advance over Toronto. But the task his harder this time around. They’ll need three straight to topple Miami, who has already asserted their championship pedigree over the Nets thus far this series, closing out two contests that could have gone either way: Games 2 and 4. The Heat sees the blood in the water, and they won’t let the Nets off the deck easily.
Already, tensions are running high. Paul Pierce asked to guard LeBron James more in Game 4. That did not go very well, as the King tied a career high with 49 playoff points. And according to a report after the game, James and Pierce got into a scuffle, something Pierce responded to with a “no comment” this morning at the shootaround. He did, however, correctly sum up what Game 5 means to the Nets:
“One game at a time at this point,” Pierce told reporters. “No tomorrow. Gotta understand that and understand the urgency.”
Kevin Garnett echoed Pierce, calling Brooklyn “desperate” for a win. That might seem obvious, but there are larger implications here for the Nets. One loss away from being pegged as a $190 million bust, Brooklyn can’t afford to squander many opportunities with an older core. With Pierce’s free agency looming, KG wearing down, and the great Brook Lopez debate about to gear up, a second round loss would certainly reverberate loudly heading into the offseason. The Nets know this and, for a team that was one of the best in basketball in the 2014 calendar year, they have to believe they’re better than a five game ousting.
Getting back to Brooklyn is the first goal, because if they do steal Game 5, you have to like the Nets’ chances of forcing a Game 7. Nothing will be easy, but with this group of veterans, I’m hard pressed to imagine a situation where they would let anything stand in their way of forcing a decisive contest. It’s improbable, but not impossible. The Nets only chance is to defy the odds. But if they go down with a whimper on Wednesday, they’ll be plagued all offseason by talk of how the blue print to beat the Heat turned out to be nothing more than a some doodling.