On Saturday night, the Brooklyn Nets will try to become just the ninth team in NBA history to rally back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series -- and interim coach P.J. Carlesimo believes his team can pull it off.
“I’ve got a ton of confidence in these guys,” Carlesimo said a day before the Nets take on the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Barclays Center.
“They’ve been resilient all year. They’ve stepped up many, many times when people didn’t think we could step up. We’ve played well on the road. We’ve beaten a lot of the better teams in the league. And the reward for the way we played in the regular season is that Game 7 of the first round is in our building. So I’m just very confident our guys are going to take advantage of the opportunity and continue to do what they’ve done all year.”
The Nets have had their backs against the wall since blowing a 14-point lead with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 4. But they staved off elimination on Monday night and Thursday night to force a decisive Game 7.
During halftime of Game 6, TNT analyst Charles Barkley said that “the Nets just play basketball, they don’t play with passion.”
“I’m really happy with our guys’ competitiveness and the fact that we’ve come back from 3-1 and the fact that we’ve won on the road,” Carlesimo said. “It’s a little hard to understand how you could think that.”
At this point, Carlesimo isn’t concerned with analysts criticizing his team.
“I don’t think we’re lacking motivation,” Carlesimo said. “I think we already have the proper motivation ourselves. Guys want to win. Right now, it’s channeled against the Bulls, if you will, but it just happens to be who we’re playing. We want to win. We believe in our abilities. We have an identity now as the Brooklyn franchise, and I think we think collectively. I think we think as the Brooklyn Nets, and I think (the players) want the Brooklyn Nets to advance, get into the next round and see what we can do. I don’t think it’s all those other factors. I just think it’s our 15 guys wanting to win for themselves and for this franchise.”
If the Nets win Saturday, they’ll get the defending champion Miami Heat in Round 2.
But Carlesimo doesn’t want his team looking ahead.
“Your reward, if you win this series, is to play the best team in the league, but that’s a great opportunity,” Carlesimo said. “It’s just if you start thinking about the next series, you’re not going to be in the next series. So I think what’s served us well so far is taking it a day at a time.
“If we don’t manufacture the same kind of desperation, the same kind of energy to match or exceed Chicago’s energy, then we’re not gonna have to worry about who’s next.”