- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- The Brooklyn Nets’ Andray Blatche was standing tall, both literally and figuratively, by the end of a season-saving victory Thursday night.
Hardly the first option of the Nets’ offense, especially down the stretch, Blatche was every bit as big as his 6-foot-11 frame, scoring five points in the final 1:15 to get his team to a deciding Game 7 against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Blatche wasn’t alone in his contributions from the Nets’ bench, as former Bull C.J. Watson added five second-half points, including a fourth-quarter 3-pointer in a scoring-challenged second half for both teams.
When the dust had finally settled, the Nets walked away with a 95-92 victory and moved into Saturday’s deciding Game 7 at Barclays Center.
Blatche not only made a 7-foot fadeaway with 1:15 left on the clock to give the Nets a 92-88 lead, he then hit three of four free throws over the final 32 seconds to help decide it, including a pair with 19.2 seconds remaining to all but secure the victory.
“It’s all about being aggressive and focused,” Blatche said. “I really wanted this game. Me and my teammates really wanted this game. Everybody had to step up. I went to the free throw line and made some big buckets to help my team. I was able to hit them.”
Despite how Blatche made it look from the foul line, there wasn’t anything easy about it.
“I ain’t gonna lie to you, it was loud,” Blatche said. “But I just tried to block it out and stay focused. We shoot a lot of free throws in practice, so I just tried to follow my same routine and just follow through.”
Now that crowd advantage will belong to the Nets on Saturday.
Just how mind-bending has this series been? During his postgame news conference, interim coach P.J. Carlesimo didn’t even know what day it was, asking reporters, "Is today Saturday? Thursday?" He only hopes to be talking about a victory when Saturday actually rolls around.
“Things are looking better for us than they did when we were leaving here last Saturday,” Carlesimo said, making reference to the triple-overtime defeat at the United Center. “Our bench was great. [Kris] Humphries gave us some good minutes and [Gerald] Wallace had a monster game. Joe [Johnson] and Andray were also big for us. Now we are in a position to take a deep breath and it is now down to one game.”
7dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo