As Andray Blatche turned the corner from the showers and saw the media contingent waiting for him at his locker, the center smiled and halted in his tracks. Dressed in just a towel, he slowly backpedaled, landing next to center Brook Lopez, who is three lockers down from him in the Nets locker room.
"Brook, they want you," Blatche said.
No, Blatche. You were the man of the hour.
The big man scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and helped the Nets pull away in their 110-91 win over Chicago in Game 5. Blatche has now scored double-digits in three of five games this series.
"My main thing was I just wanted to get the ball to the paint and just be aggressive, not settle for jump shots," Blatche said. "I tried to stay in attack mode and I was successful doing it."
Playing on a sprained calf he suffered in Saturday's Game 4 loss, Blatche barely made a difference during the first three quarters, logging just three points and a single board in more than eight minutes. In the fourth quarter, Blatche came alive to make sure Brooklyn would live to see at least another night.
Chicago had been clawing back into the game for the most of the second half and trailed just 79-78 with 11:03 left. Kris Humphries missed at the other end, but in a critical sequence, Blatche snatched the offensive board and scored.
Chicago followed with a turnover and Blatche finished at the other end to push the lead back up to five at 83-78. The Bulls kept it within one basket over the next few possessions, but Blatche later nailed a pair of free throws following a flagrant foul, and connected on a drive to put Brooklyn up 91-84 with 6:09 left. Chicago never made it closer than a five-point deficit the rest of the way.
With his team on the brink of elimination, Blatche played all but 54 seconds in the final quarter and added four rebounds in the stanza. He played the most minutes of any Nets player in the fourth quarter and gave the team a much-needed boost when Chicago seemed poised to take the lead.
"He has done that throughout the season," Lopez said. "He is definitely capable of it and we are definitely going to need that again. We have all the faith in him and when he gets an opportunity he takes advantage of it."
Blatche said his ankle is still aching a little bit, and he plans on getting some treatment, but it's "pretty much good."
Teammate Reggie Evans isn't stressing about the status of Blatche's ankle. He knows there's no way Blatche would let the injury keep him out of action.
"I know he's going to play. He ain't going to let us down. He ain't going to let that stop him," Evans said. "My boy, he came through in the clutch."