Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

P.J. Insists Nets Have No Choice

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

P.J. Insists Nets Have No Choice

Article excerpt

Being on the wrong side of an instant classic is difficult to accept for any team in any situation.

So how does a team react after it blows a massive lead in the final moments of a crucial playoff game, inflicting an instant classic on themselves, which they lost after 63 grueling minutes of basketball?

The Nets will provide that answer tonight.

The only way to keep their season alive is with a win. That's because Saturday, in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series with the Chicago Bulls, the Nets surrendered a 14-point lead in the final 180 seconds of regulation before losing in triple overtime.

They were three minutes from tying the series. Now, they trail the Bulls, 3-1, and must win three straight games to avoid elimination in this best-of-seven series.

"Disappointment's probably not strong enough," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said Sunday, trying to explain the emotional state of his team after its Game 4 collapse. "We know it should be 2-2. ... But it's not. It's 3-1 and that's our fault and we've got to deal with it."

The collapse has the Nets fighting more than the Bulls. They're up against history: 210 teams have fallen behind, 3-1, in a series before the Nets. Only eight have come back to win the series, most recently the 2006 Phoenix Suns, who beat the Lakers in the first round.

That daunting task doesn't bother Carlesimo.

"I think it's doable," he said. "I think there are rational reasons to feel confident going into this game."

The reasons are simple. Despite playing poorly at times in this series, the Nets have had an opportunity late in every loss.

In Game 2, they were within four points in the final five minutes; they had a shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime in Game 3; they had a 14-point lead in the final three minutes of Game 4.

Carlesimo's argument for hope is simple: The Bulls aren't dominating the Nets, the Nets just aren't seizing their opportunities. The Nets have faced adversity all season long and bounced back. This is another chance.

"We're not asking them to do something we haven't done before," Carlesimo said.

"Can we score points, can we take care of the ball, can we rebound, can we defend? …

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