7 Keys to Game 7: The plantar, the big man, the tandem, the leprechaun and more

Deron Williams, Jimmy Butler
Game 7. (AP)

The unstoppable force

Nate Robinson
Nate Robinson. (AP)

Nate Robinson is a leprechaun warlock from another world perpetually living in a hallucinatory acid trip. He’s in that frustrating echelon of NBA non-stars that are unguardable solely because they’re insane. He hits 22-foot running bank shots off one foot with one hand. He floats layups over and through human beings twice his size. The Nets couldn’t stop Nate Robinson in Game 4 because Nate Robinson wasn’t on the court: he was in a medieval forest in another galaxy, slicing Biggie spirits with the Sword of Destiny. Nate Robinson wasn’t puking after Game 6, he was releasing demons from his body to purify himself for this one final shot at glory. Keeping Nate Robinson on this planet may be the key to Brooklyn’s very survival.

The plantar

Joakim Noah, Joe Johnson
Joakim Noah, Joe Johnson. (AP)
Fighting plantar fasciitis in his left foot — a pain comparable to getting stabbed in the foot with a knife — Joe Johnson has admitted that he’s mostly a “decoy” for Brooklyn (though four first-quarter isolations in Game 6 would beg to differ). He’s been a model of consistency, scoring between 15 and 17 points in four of the six games this series. He’s done, for the most part, what you expect Joe Johnson to do: shoot jumpers and floaters, hit open shots, and act as the second or third scoring option at all times.

On the other side, the Bulls have Joakim Noah, who’s fighting the exact same ailment in his right foot, and who may have run more miles per game than any other player in the NBA this season. Noah’s vertical leap, speed, and effectiveness have taken an obvious hit with the injury. After six playoff games and over 400 combined playoff minutes between the two players, it’s a wonder either has been effective at all.

The troubled forward

Gerald Wallace
Gerald Wallace. (AP)
His confidence was “totally gone.” He wanted to “make a shot. A layup. Any f—ing thing.” He was “f—ing pissed off” at his teammates earlier this year, then later compared Joe Johnson to Michael Jordan. To say it’s been an up-and-down season for Gerald Wallace would give seesaws too much credit. Now, through six games, Wallace appears to have re-gained his offensive touch (though an airballed layup and free throw don’t help matters), shooting 6-12 from 3 in his last three games after ending the season shooting 5-42 in his final 21 regular season games. Deron Williams made an effort to get him involved early in games, giving him an open dunk in transition even when Williams could have taken it himself. Trust breeds confidence, and it looks like Wallace’s is back.

Now, facing a Bulls team without Luol Deng for the second straight game, Wallace has an opportunity to once again take advantage of the limited Bulls wings. Whether or not he will is anyone’s guess.

The ambience

Tonight marks a chance for the first Game 7 home victory in Brooklyn’s history — not the Nets’ history, but Brooklyn’s. As Mike Vaccaro noted today, the Brooklyn Dodgers never won a Game 7 at home in their 74 years in the borough. Brooklyn’s crowd has come out strong more than once in big games this season — with everything on the line, this may be the moment when everything finally clicks.

With the defending champion Miami Heat looming in the second round and a second-round exit likely for either team that wins this series, a strong showing tonight by the Brooklyn crowd may be its biggest of the season.

The Brooklyn Chant gave me goosebumps on November 26th, the first time the Nets played (and defeated) the New York Knicks at home. Will it happen again?