EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -With two days to think about their missed opportunity to close out the Toronto Raptors, the New Jersey Nets are hoping a return home will provide the boost to advance to the second round.
Nets coach Lawrence Frank wouldn't liken the Nets' attitude to a glass half-empty or half-full after Tuesday night's 98-96 loss at Toronto in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first-round series. New Jersey leads 3-2 with Game 6 on Friday night at Continental Airlines Arena.
``Coming back home doesn't guarantee anything,'' Frank said Wednesday. ``The bottom line is you don't take anything for granted. You can't let down your guard or exhale. We need to play our best game if we want to have a chance to win.''
Several factors appear to tip the scales in New Jersey's favor, with two being the status of Raptors guards T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon, both of whom were injured Tuesday night.
Ford, who had spinal surgery three years ago after being injured during a game, left the game when he experienced pain and numbness in his neck, shoulders and arms after running into Vince Carter in the second quarter. Calderon turned his right ankle in the game's final minute. Neither player practiced Wednesday.
Then there is the simple fact that the Nets dominated Games 3 and 4 at home, winning by an average of 17 points. The three games in Toronto were decided by a total of 13 points.
Overall, home teams are 23-6 so far in the first round of the playoffs - 22-3 if the San Antonio-Denver series is removed from the equation.
``That opportunity, we didn't lose it; they took it,'' Frank said about Tuesday's game. ``Now, here's another opportunity and we need to take advantage of it. This is the privilege of having the home court advantage, being able to close out the series on your home court.''
A win Tuesday, in a game in which the Nets trailed by 20 in the first half before rallying, would have given them at least two days' rest before traveling to Cleveland. Instead, a win Friday night would give them only one day off before playing the Cavaliers on Sunday.
The Nets had a chance to win Tuesday night on Bostjan Nachbar's 3-pointer in the final seconds, the second time in the series that the Slovenian took the game's decisive shot. He missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the end of Game 2, an 89-83 New Jersey loss.
Frank dismissed the idea that Carter, who finished Tuesday's game with 30 points, would have been better served by taking the ball to the basket instead of driving and kicking it out to Nachbar.
``Boki's our best 3-point shooter, and in the corners he's far and away our best 3-point shooter,'' Frank said. ``In the playoffs, teams are going to shrink the floor, and in that case, both (Andrea) Bargnani and (Chris) Bosh came and shrunk it. Vince got to the paint, and the play was to deliver it to the open guy.
``You just have to trust your gut, trust your teammates and make the right play, and the right play was to pass it to Boki.''
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