Putting aside all the news on Ben Simmons’ status, there is this: The Brooklyn Nets can be eliminated from the NBA Playoff with a loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 Monday night. Ahead of the win-or-go-home game, Steve Nash delivered his final message to his players, emphasizing preparation and how the Nets are waiting for the ball to tip more than anything.
“The bottom line is sticking to our big rocks and playing the way we set out to play and trying to improve on the areas we’ve been a little bit inefficient. Having been in their seat, they’re not looking for you to save them with your words. They’re looking for the ball to go up and start playing,” said Nash on his final message heading into Game 4. “It’s tough in between games, so they’re ready to play. That’s the No. 1 thing: make sure they’re prepared as possible to improve on the last game.”
The Nets will have to play with the most urgency they have all season to keep their paper-thin playoff hopes alive. When Nash was asked whether he wants his players to play with a sense of desperation, he said he wants the team to balance the three components of competitiveness, spirit, and poise on an incredible level.
“There’s a balance between incredible, competitive spirit, and poise. I think you want to strike that,” Nash said. “To be a winner, you have to have incredible force and will, and you also have to have poise. Finding that as a group, not just individually, is a component of the game.”
Speaking of spirit and competitiveness, the Nets head coach saw firsthand what Blake Griffin provided in the eight minutes he took to the court during the Game 3 loss. Griffin, who didn't play since April 2, played with hustle and spirit using his physicality and hitting a pair of 3-pointers on the offensive end that gave Brooklyn a sense of hope to pull out a win in Game 3. The Nets head coach didn’t want to commit to a Griffin role in Game 4, explaining he wants to see how the contest goes to see where the veteran, who scored eight points in eight minutes Saturday night, can contribute.
“I think he can play a part. We’ll see. I don’t want to commit to anything. I think we definitely want to see how the game goes,” said Nash on Griffin’s role in Game 4. “He did bring a spirit and energy that I thought was valuable. Sometimes a little change and tweak like that can give you a lift, and that can be an important pocket of the game that spurs you on or to pick things up in a way that affects the latter part of the game as well.”
The Nets head coach doesn't expect to make any starting lineup changes — which implies he’s sticking with the starting five of Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Kevin Durant, Bruce Brown, and Andre Drummond — and not making “any big changes” to his rotation for Game 4.
“I don’t foresee us changing our lineup. We’re open and we’ve discussed many variables of how the game could go, but not from the outside we’re making any big changes,” the Nets head coach stated.
A large part of Nash’s preparation for Game 4 with his players, he said, was emphasizing how fine the margins have been between the two teams. Outside of being outscored by only 14 points over twelve total quarters played through the first three playoff games, the Nets' head coach stressed how there are many ways to win a basketball game but pinpointed the massive live-ball turnover problem as a catalyst to their struggles in the series — an area that the 13-live-ball turnovers in Game 3 resulted in 24 points off 11 transition buckets.
“We talked to the players about how fine the margins are, and how we’ve done a lot of things well. I think we’re scoring at a higher clip now than in the regular season. We’ve talked about some of the things we want to improve upon and how close the series is when you take a step back.
“At the same time, there are many ways to win a basketball game. You just don’t want to say it’s the live-ball turnovers because that can be replaced with some other deficiency on a night-to-night basis. That’s the clearest one when you’re talking about fine margins, that hurts our offense and our defense.”