TORONTO – The Brooklyn Nets returned to Toronto Monday afternoon for what they hope will be the last time this season.
After controlling Game 1 of their playoff series against the Raptors, winning 94-87 to snatch home-court advantage, a win Tuesday night in Game 2 would mean the Nets could pack away their passports.
Win Game 2 (7:30pm, YES) and the Nets could wrap up the series in Brooklyn where Games 3 and 4 will be held Friday and Sunday nights in Barclays Center. Get ready, Brooklyn.
Another team might be satisfied with a road split. The Nets are not another team. They are a veteran group that has been focused on these playoffs since coming together in training camp back in October.
So the Raptors can hold their pep rallies, the GM can toss out epitaphs, the coach can coin catchy phrases and the players can dismiss their lack of playoff experience all they want.
The Raptors haven’t seen the playoffs since 2008 and they haven’t seen a playoff dinosaur like the Nets, period.
“It’s a mindset,’’ said Nets guard Shaun Livingston. “It’s a mentality. We have to train ourselves mentally to be hungry, to be greedy. I think that’s what all the great teams strive for.
“Game 1 was great but it’s over and this is Game 2. We have to refocus. They obviously feel this is a must-win for them. We should approach that mentality.
“It’s not, ‘We’re comfortable. All the pressure’s on them.’ I don’t necessarily believe that. It should still be a war. We should still go in with a killer instinct.’’
The Nets were clandestine assassins in Game 1.
While all of Canada seemed to be convinced that the Nets had lost four of five down the stretch to avoid a first-round matchup against the Bulls in favor of playing the Raptors, the Nets were taking quiet confidence in coach Jason Kidd’s season-long plan to have his players rested and healthy for the playoffs.
”Jason did a great job during the regular season limiting the minutes, giving me the day off in practice or certain games,’’ said Pierce. “I’m well-rested and ready.’’
While Raptors coach Dwane Casey crowed, “Be careful what you wish for,” the Nets were bemused by Toronto’s illogical conspiracy theory.
While DeMar DeRozan said the playoffs aren’t rocket science, the Nets were implementing a game plan that takes advantage of Joe Johnson in the post and of DeRozan’s struggles when forced to move laterally.
While Toronto GM Masai Ujiri was dropping F-bombs, Nets GM Billy King was laying low.
While the fans in Air Canada Centre belted out their lovely national anthem, Oh Canada, and waved their white flags, the Nets relished the chance to silence the 19,800 wearing their white “We The North” T-shirts.
“You always expect to win at home,’’ said veteran forward Paul Pierce. “You go on the road, nobody expects you to win.
“When you pull out a hard fought victory in somebody else’s territory, somebody else’s gym, you know you worked extremely hard to get it. That’s why I say it’s more gratifying to win in someone else’s building.’’
No one enjoyed the Game 1 win more than Pierce. After ruining the Raptors’ party by scoring nine of his 15 points in the final three minutes, the veteran forward tossed his headband into the crowd.
Toronto fans tossed it back. Pierce returned serve – and held. With the exception of that volley, it was eerily quiet in the Air Canada Centre.
“Oh, it’s the best,’’ Alan Anderson said of the silence. “I like the boos a lot, too. The boos will get you going when you’re playing well. It’s a good feeling to have them silent. Because the whole 48 minutes they’re yelling at you.’’
The Nets haven’t yelled, or talked trash, or cussed or cried or complained. They won’t Tuesday night. They know they have a hold on this series, on the Raptors. Tuesday night they can squeeze tighter.
No offense, Canada, but the Nets have no interest in returning for a Game 5. None whatsoever.
NOTES: Tickets are available to see the Nets when they return to Brooklyn on Friday night. Click here to purchase tickets.