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Nets, banged-up Bulls ready for Game 7 in Brooklyn
NEW YORK (AP) - Time for the Nets’ biggest game in Brooklyn.
The Nets have brought their first-round series against Chicago to a Game 7, a victory away from equaling the largest playoff comeback in NBA history. And they’ve brought it back home, where Barclays Center has to be more than a beautiful, $1 billion building.
They are counting on a true home-court advantage against whichever banged-up Bulls can take the floor Saturday night.
“The reward for the way we played in the regular season is that this Game 7 in 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,” Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said Friday.
The Nets never hosted a Game 7 during their 35 years in New Jersey, dropping the only one they ever reached at Detroit in 2004. But they get one right away in their first season in Brooklyn, which looked unlikely just a week earlier.
Chicago was a win from closing it out after rallying for a triple-overtime victory last Saturday, but a combination of the Nets' play and the Bulls' pain has Brooklyn poised to become the ninth NBA team to win a series after trailing 3-1.
The key Saturday is to play as hard now that it’s all even as they did when they were behind.
“I think that’s a big, big concern, to continue the desperation with which we’ve played,” Carlesimo said during a conference call. “Our mantra’s kind of been the last couple of games to win and go on and get it back it Brooklyn for Game 7, and we certainly can’t think that we’ve done the hard part already. What’s left is going to be more difficult than the last two games and I think that’s going to be a challenge tomorrow.”
The challenge for Chicago is putting together a healthy team. Kirk Hinrich has missed the last two games with a bruised left calf and Luol Deng is so sick that he may be forced to spend Friday night in the hospital after missing Game 6. He wrote on Twitter that he would be at Game 7 if he was cleared to travel.
“It’s going to be a fight,” guard Jimmy Butler said. “The tougher team is going to get the win.”
Or the healthier one.
The Nets have clearly caught a break with the injury to Hinrich, whose absence has made things much easier for point guard Deron Williams, followed by the Bulls’ illnesses. But they also appear to have a deeper roster even if Chicago was healthy, with reserves such as Andray Blatche and former Bulls guard C.J. Watson making key late-game contributions. Their reserves outscored Chicago’s 27-7 on Thursday.
“We’ve dealt with that all season. We’ve been short-handed from the start. We lost more guys along the way,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “These guys have responded all year. I felt we were in position in Game 5. I felt like we were in position in Game 6. So we have to play our best game tomorrow.”
The winner opens the second round Monday at Miami, having survived a two-week beating and then getting just one full day off to face a powerful Heat team that will be well-rested after sweeping Milwaukee.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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