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Analysis: Nets must conquer mental hurdle

5/14/2014


MIAMI -- Not long after Game 4 had ended, Paul Pierce reminded anyone listening that nothing had yet been decided in the Nets' second-round series against the Miami Heat.

“The series is far from over,” Pierce said.

The only problem is, it felt like it was over after the Nets suffered a crushing 102-96 loss to the Heat on Monday night. The Heat not only took a commanding 3-1 lead, but the Nets also stumbled in the final 1:16 after trading blows in an emotional see-saw battle with LeBron James & Co.

James tied his playoff career high with 49 points, the best player in the world unleashing everything in his substantial arsenal. And the Nets gave James and the Heat everything they seemingly had only to come up short on two key offensive possessions late.

Now, it remains to be seen just how much fight the Nets have left in them after such a taxing loss.

Will they have anything remaining mentally?

“It’s very difficult,” Kevin Garnett said not long after losing Game 4. “Very difficult to swallow. Hard to take. But it’s what it is.”

The Nets have under 48 hours to recover and try to keep their season alive. The odds are against them making a full recovery considering that 96 percent of teams that take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series go on to advance. Only eight teams have ever overcome a 3-1 deficit.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Jason Kidd said on a conference call with reporters before the Nets flew to Miami on Tuesday. “And someone has to lose. So guys are probably a little disappointed but we have another game to play. ... So we've got to get prepared and get ready and find a way to win Game 5.”

Kidd, however, has seen how his team has responded in a do-or-die situation. The Nets won the last two games, including a Game 7 on the road in Toronto, to get out of the first round against the Raptors.

He will need Joe Johnson and Deron Williams -- the Nets’ max contract players -- to play like it’s their last game of the season. The Nets have to execute better in the second half, especially in the final minutes on the road. They also have to keep the Heat out of the paint and prevent easy baskets on the defensive end.

“We understand what’s at stake,” Kidd said. “[It's] Game 7 for us from here on out. If we lose it’s over. If we win, we live to fight another day.”

The Nets, of course, needed a series-winning block from Pierce to survive the Raptors. Unlike those young and inexperienced Raptors, the Heat are the two-time defending champs. Miami knows what it takes to put a team away, as James sensed the urgency of winning Game 4 and raised his game to meet the challenge.

“I felt the need that we needed to win this game,” James said. “Whatever I needed to do to help us win, it needed to be done.”

In the first two games in Miami, the Nets were in both contests until Miami took advantage of second-half breakdowns by Brooklyn.

“Shoulda, coulda, woulda,” Garnett said when asked if those close road losses will help the Nets going into Game 5. “That doesn’t help us at this point.”

The Nets need to win three straight games -- including two in Miami -- to advance. We’ll find out if the Nets can stave off elimination again the way they did against Toronto.

“We just gotta get one game,” Pierce said. “That’s the mindset ... try to get one game and force the series back at home.”