NEW YORK -- Only a few hours before Game 6 tipped off, Jason Kidd talked on and on about how he had to stay the course, not deviate in any way from how he has coached up to this point.
“I’ve always thought a coach who is confident and doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary gives that vibe off to his guys,” Kidd said. “And his guys feel confident and at ease that there is no pressure.”
As it turns out, Kidd was just giving his poker face and trying to throw people off what he had planned.
With the Nets’ season hanging in the balance, Brooklyn’s rookie coach pushed more buttons in a two-day span than he has his entire first year as a head coach. And he made all the right moves as the Nets forced a Game 7 with a 97-83 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Barclays.
The two-time Eastern Conference Coach of the Month did one of the things he always did as a player -- he made moves a step or two ahead of time. He began plotting for Game 6 as soon as Game 5 was over in Toronto.
During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Kidd deviated from his customary line of bland quotes and decided to set a tone for Game 6. He pulled a page out of the Pat Riley playoff coaching handbook and delivered not-so-subtle digs at the officiating to lobby for more favorable calls.
He drew a $25,000 fine, but it was a bargain considering the Raptors were whistled for 25 personal fouls compared to the Nets’ 14 in Friday night's win.
Joe Johnson, who took just one foul shot in Game 5, was at the line nine times on Friday.
Kidd liked what he saw at the end of Game 5 from Anderson, who was on the floor in the fourth quarter when the Nets erased the Raptors' 26-point lead. The former Raptor provided energy, some timely shot-making and strong defense on DeMar DeRozan.
“J [Jason Kidd] wanted to mix it up a little bit,” Kevin Garnett said. “And it was a good call.”
Anderson led the Nets with nine rebounds to go with his nine points, grabbing five of his boards in the first quarter when the Nets jumped on Toronto and forged a 34-19 lead.
The Nets’ coach didn’t stop at just the starting lineup. He tinkered with his rotation. Rookie Mason Plumlee, who averaged 16 minutes in the first five games, was the odd man out as Kidd went with Andray Blatche and played Andrei Kirilenko and Marcus Thornton a bit more.
Blatche made up for his errant pass at the end of Game 5 with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 21 solid minutes. When Blatche plays aggressively in the paint, the versatile big man adds another dimension for the Nets.
Kidd wanted his team to come out aggressive and it hit 13 of 19 shots in the first quarter. He emphasized his team getting into the paint and the Nets outscored Toronto 48-32 in the restricted area.
Most importantly, Kidd got Aggressive Deron Williams to make a timely appearance as Williams scored 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists while overcoming an ankle injury during the game.
And this time in the fourth quarter, Kidd played Garnett and Paul Pierce when Toronto made a late charge. The Raptors sliced a 26-point lead to 84-73 with 7:40 to go. But Garnett provided the Nets with much-needed poise and answered with a layup, a patented KG turnaround jumper and a block.
Williams followed Garnett’s lead and buried a 3-point dagger with 1:13 left that sealed the game and drew a rare emotional response from Kidd on the sideline. Not long ago, with the New Jersey Nets, Kidd used to hit those kind of late shots -- often with an ensuing fist pump -- in big games like this.
“We drew it up in the timeout,” Kidd said. “I guess that’s the satisfaction about coaching: If you draw something up and it works, you celebrate. If it doesn’t, you just act like you didn’t draw it up.”
The Nets didn’t design their topsy-turvy route to the playoffs or map this series the way it has gone. But Kidd showed he could make winning adjustments in his first elimination game as a head coach.
After not playing Garnett a single minute in the fourth quarter of Game 5, Kidd played Garnett 26 minutes -- the most Garnett has played in this series.
Since training camp, Kidd has been watching Garnett’s minutes as if they were on a pre-paid international calling card. The plan has been to keep Garnett fresh for moments like this.
“Fresh is not a word I would use when it comes to me,” Garnett cracked.
As it turns out, Garnett could have said the same thing about his rookie coach, who didn't coach like a rookie on Friday.
After seeing how Kidd led as a player, Mikhail Prokhorov wanted him to coach and win the Game 7 they couldn’t manage last year.
Now that first-round Game 7 is here again for the Brooklyn Nets. And we'll see what Kidd has up his designer sleeves in his biggest game as a head coach.
“It’s a first for everything for me,” he said of coaching in his first Game 7. “First playoff, first Game 1, first Game 2, and we can go on and on.
“First Game 7 is just like Game 1,” Kidd added. “It’s just win a game. And the challenge is to find a way to win on the road, bottom line.”