So maybe Paul Pierce didn’t say it with the full bravado of a Patrick Ewing.
But Pierce did perhaps channel a little of his inner Ewing following the Nets’ Game 5 loss on Wednesday night.
When asked if Brooklyn can win two straight games to advance to the next round, Pierce displayed the kind of confidence the Nets need in order to win two straight games and climb out of their current hole down 3-2 in this best-of-seven series.
“Without a doubt,” Pierce said in the visitors’ locker room at the Air Canada Centre. “One game at a time, we got to take care of home. I think we will play better on Friday at home and we’ll see them back here Sunday.”
Sunday, of course, is a potential Game 7. In order to force an ultimate do-or-die game, the Nets have to do several things to stop the Raptors from ending their season on Friday in Game 6 at Brooklyn.
They’ll need to do something they haven’t done all series long -- play their best basketball. Like the start of their season and their stunning turnaround, the Nets have been good and bad at times during each game of this series.
The Nets have to play aggressively and maintain that energy without any lulls. The man who has to set the tone for the Nets is Deron Williams.
Will the real D-Will please stand up, please stand up? In Game 6, Williams simply must set the tone right from tip off by coming out in attack mode and taking the game to Kyle Lowry instead of the other way around.
Early in Game 5, Williams looked more to get his teammates involved instead of getting himself going. He had just three points, took only four shots and had two turnovers while Lowry had 21 of his 36 points in the first half.
Williams began to assert himself in the fourth quarter when the Nets erased a 26-point deficit and came back to tie the game. When Williams is active on defense, it can ignite his and the Nets' offense. When the point guard is attacking defenders and getting to the rim, he adds another dimension for the Nets.
In Brooklyn’s two wins in this series, Williams is averaging 23 points a game. And when he and Joe Johnson both have it going, the Raptors have problems. The duo averaged a combined 49.5 points and shot a total of 34-for-64 from the field in the two Brooklyn wins.
“We just got to play with a sense of urgency,” Williams said of the Nets playing aggressive throughout Game 6. “We have to now. If we lose, we’re done.”
Like Williams’ need to attack for four quarters, the Nets must play a complete game defensively and stop having breakdowns for a full quarter.
They lost Game 2 because they surrendered 36 points in the fourth. They won Game 3 despite allowing 32 points in the fourth to the Raptors. Toronto opened Game 4 scoring 35 points in the first quarter. And in Game 5, the Nets unraveled in the second quarter, giving up 34 points to Toronto.
And then there’s Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Nets gave up three first-round picks for the two future Hall-of-Famers to win this type of game. The duo, though, found themselves sitting during the entire fourth quarter cheering for the five that helped the Nets erase a 26-point lead.
“This is about the Brooklyn Nets,” Kidd explained on Thursday when asked if he had to talk to Pierce and Garnett about not playing in the fourth. “It’s not about two guys. Those guys were cheering on the guys who were on the floor.”
In what could be the Nets’ final game of the season, Pierce and Garnett will likely be on the floor in the fourth quarter leaving everything they got.
The Nets will need both to provide leadership, experience and a calming presence if the Raptors do make a run at them and things start to unravel. And Pierce will also be needed to help set an aggressive tone with his offense.
So much can happen with the Nets if their season ends in Brooklyn on Friday. You never know, it could end up being Garnett’s and Pierce’s last game as Nets. Ownership may want to make changes after a season that fell well short of expectations. Management could try to trade some of the bigger contracts if possible.
Just don’t ask Pierce about any of that late Friday night. As far as he’s concerned, the Nets will be getting ready for a Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday.
As the Big Fella once famously said, “See you Sunday.”