EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — He’s logged just north of 5,500 minutes in the 137 games he’s set foot on a court with an NBA playoff logo, meaning he’s experienced just about everything the postseason has to offer.
So if anyone on the Nets understands the difficulty in snatching the first two games of a best-of-seven series on the road, it’s Paul Pierce. As a veteran of 10 previous postseasons can attest, the challenges in achieving such a task might be unmatched, highlighting the barricade that stands in front of the Nets on Tuesday night when they meet the Raptors in Game 2 at Air Canada Centre.
“Since I’ve been in the playoffs, I’ve only done it one time,” Pierce said Monday. “It’s a hard thing to do. We have to understand how hard it is to win in another building two times in a row in the playoffs. We have to come with that mentality — nothing less.”
The Nets have spent the past two days since Saturday’s Game 1 victory trying to eliminate any comfortable thoughts that might have been flowing through their heads since Pierce went crazy in the fourth quarter, lifting them to that gritty win.
Call it a reprogramming of their brains.
“It’s a mind-set. It’s a mentality,” Shaun Livingston said. “We have to train ourselves to be hungry, to be greedy. I think that’s what all the great teams strive for. To win one was great, but it’s over. This is Game 2 and we have to refocus. They obviously feel it’s a must-win for them and we should approach that same mentality ... It’s not, ‘Oh we are comfortable, all the pressure is on them.’ I don’t necessarily believe that. It still should be a war. We should still go in with the killer instinct.”
Technically, the holdovers from last year’s playoff fizzle shouldn’t need much motivation. Although the circumstances were a bit different since they were the home team in their first-round series with the Bulls, the Nets dropped the next three games after the opener, falling into a 3-1 hole before climbing out and forcing a Game 7. Which they lost. At home.
One difference this time around, other than the obvious with Pierce and Kevin Garnett on board: no plantar fasciitis for Joe Johnson, which allows the Nets to confidently play through their All-Star.
“Last year is a lot different than this year, from a personnel standpoint, from us being healthy. It’s night and day,” Johnson said. “I think this team here really knows what it takes to get to that level and not taking each game for granted. We are not satisfied. We understand we got a game in Toronto, but we want to get another one.”
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