The Brooklyn Nets will try to become just the ninth team in NBA history to rally back from 3-1 down to win a best-of-seven playoff series when they face the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
WHAT’S AT STAKE: A chance to knock off the defending champions in Round 2. The winner of Saturday night’s game will take on the Miami Heat. Game 1 is Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. But P.J. Carlesimo, who has never won a playoff series as a head coach, is imploring his team not to look ahead. To paraphrase Carlesimo, if you start thinking about the next series, you won’t make it to the next series.
EXPERIENCE A PLUS: Five Nets -- Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Jerry Stackhouse -- have appeared in at least one Game 7 previously. On May 5, 2007, Williams had 20 points and 14 assists for the Utah Jazz in the deciding game of the Western Conference quarterfinals in Houston. The Jazz won 103-99. In the Chicago series, D-Will is averaging 20.0 points and 8.7 assists and shooting 41.6 percent from the field, but he’s just 3-for-12 in the fourth quarter. Tonight would be a perfect time for him to have his first memorable big-game moment.
BROOK-LYN: Brook Lopez had his worst game of the series in Game 6, shooting 7-for-18 from the field. But overall, he’s averaging 22.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks against the Bulls and has been shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 87.8 percent from the free throw line. The Nets likely need a dominant game from Lopez to advance.
THE X FACTOR: Wallace got off to a bad start in this series and admitted he didn’t know what his role was. But in the past three games, he has averaged 14.7 points on 51.7 percent shooting and has made half of his six attempts from 3-point range. The Nets are a much more dangerous team offensively when defenses have to respect Wallace.
HOME ADVANTAGE: The Nets are 28-16 at Barclays Center (playoffs and regular season) and have won six of the past seven there. The Bulls are 0-6 all time in road Game 7s.
WOUNDED BULLS: Luol Deng (flu) is out. Kirk Hinrich (calf) is a game-time decision. Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson both gutted through the flu in Game 6 and might have to do so in Game 7, as well. Both are feeling better, according to coach Tom Thibodeau. Based on reports out of Chicago, it doesn’t appear likely that Derrick Rose will make his season debut Saturday night.
FORGETTING ABOUT THE PAST: The Nets obviously want to forget about Game 4 -- and the second half of Game 6. The Nets scored just 35 points in the second half of that game. Williams, Johnson and Lopez combined to go 5-for-17 from the field with five turnovers in the final 24 minutes, and Brooklyn went 13-for-23 from the charity stripe as a team in the second half.
HISTORY TELLS US: The Nets have played in only one other Game 7 in franchise history -- a road loss to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 East semis. The last playoff game in a major professional sport played in Brooklyn was Game 7 of the 1956 World Series -- Yankees 9, Dodgers 0. The last NBA team to come back from a 3-1 deficit was the 2006 Phoenix Suns in the West quarters.