Nets' Andray Blatche guarantees Game 7 win over Raptors
Neither franchise has won a 7th game before
Andray Blatche is confident the Brooklyn Nets have found the "recipe" they need to beat the Toronto Raptors. And that's not all.
Riding high after a big win in Game 6, Blatche cooked up controversy by guaranteeing the Nets will win their first-round series with a Game 7 victory in Toronto on Sunday.
The Nets, who nearly overturned a 26-point deficit with a 44-point fourth quarter in Game 5, carried that momentum into Friday night's must-win meeting in Brooklyn, staving off elimination by jumping out to a 34-19 lead and limiting the Raptors to a series-low 83 points.
That had Blatche boasting that Brooklyn would soon be settling into a second-round series against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
Who does he think he is? He's not [Kevin Garnett] or Paul Pierce or Jason Kidd. We're not going to listen to his nonsense.- Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez
"We guarantee it," Blatche said after Friday's game. "We're gonna go there [Sunday], take care of business and go to Miami."
Blatche's guarantee wasn't welcomed by the Raptors.
"Who does he think he is?" Toronto guard Greivis Vasquez asked after the Raptors practised Saturday. "He's not KG or Paul Pierce or Jason Kidd. We're not going to listen to his nonsense."
Whatever they think of Blatche's brash prediction, the Raptors are admittedly on the ropes after struggling to close out Game 5, then playing poorly in Game 6. The Nets, meanwhile, feel things are starting to go their way.
"I think our momentum will carry over," Blatche said. "I think we found the recipe."
Guard Shaun Livingston agreed, pointing to the fact that the Nets beat the Raptors on the road in Game 1.
"We kind of found a structure that works for us," Livingston said. "Our confidence is high. We know we can go into that building and get a win. I think we're built for that."
Toronto may not have momentum on its side, but it will have an arena full of fired-up fans. The noise at Air Canada Centre was so loud during Game 5, even the Nets' official Twitter feed took notice, urging Brooklyn fans to behave more like their boisterous Canadian counterparts.
"It will definitely be crazy in here tomorrow," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said Saturday. "The energy us definitely going to be major tomorrow so that's something we can feed off."
Neither team has won a Game 7 before: the Nets are 0-2 in such situations, while the Raptors are 0-1. Brooklyn lost Game 7 at Chicago in the first round last year.
Following that loss, the Nets traded for Pierce and Kevin Garnett, made a few more moves in free agency, and ended up with a roster that boasts 36 combined All-Star appearances and costs more than $180 million US in salaries and taxes.
So while Brooklyn may have momentum on its side, it also has the bulk of the pressure, too. DeRozan, the lone All-Star on Toronto's roster, certainly sees it that way.
"Yeah, man," DeRozan said. "We ain't got not 100 million payroll or whatever they got. That's all on them. At the end of the day, they have more to lose than us."
Toronto, which has never won a seven-game series, suffered its only Game 7 loss in May, 2001, when a Vince Carter jump shot at the buzzer rimmed out, sending the Philadelphia 76ers to the conference finals.
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry was a 16-year-old high schooler in Philadelphia that spring, and remembers watching the game.
"I was a fan back then, of the other team," Lowry said. "But it was a great game, a great game."
Experience, or Toronto's lack of it, has been debated at length this series, and could prove vital in Sunday's winner-take-all atmosphere. Toronto's roster has played in seven Game 7s combined, one fewer than Pierce alone.
"This is the type of situation that I love and love to be in," Pierce said Friday.
In all, the Nets have a combined 27 games worth of experience in Game 7s. "Someone's got to go home," Nets guard Joe Johnson said Friday. "We don't want it to be us."
The tip-off time for Sunday's game doesn't favor the Raptors. Including their Game 1 loss to Brooklyn, Toronto is 3-7 this season in games that start before 6 p.m.
"It's not great," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "The numbers speak for themselves."
Still, Casey said he hopes his players learned a valuable lesson about what's needed to close out a series after coming up short Friday.
"I hope that they did gain something by getting punched last night and knowing how hard Brooklyn is going to come out and how hard we have to come out," Casey said.