As the Nets flew home to Brooklyn late Thursday night, there was one major difference among the team: The feeling of hope.
The last time the Nets flew out of Chicago, it was last Saturday after a heart-wrenching loss in the marathon that was the triple-overtime instant classic against the Bulls in Game 4.
Chicago had taken a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and the Nets were heading back to Brooklyn with their backs against the wall, fighting for their playoff lives.
"It's gonna be a lot different," Nets star point guard Deron Williams said of the flight home. "The one Saturday was depressing. Not much talking. We just kind of felt sorry for ourselves."
"Things are looking a lot better for us than they did when we were leaving here last Saturday," Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
After Thursday's 95-92 win over the Bulls, Nets forward Andray Blatche summed up the mood perfectly: "Going back to Brooklyn never felt so good."
"That's what we wanted to do. We took it one game at a time and now we're going back to Brooklyn," Williams said. "That's our new slogan. It was 'Hello Brooklyn," and now it's "Going back to Brooklyn."
Nets forward Reggie Evans said heading into Thursday's contest, he was confident the series would come down to a Game 7.
"Not to sound arrogant, but deep down inside, I knew we were going back to Brooklyn," said Evans, who muscled down 15 rebounds in the Game 6 victory. "It feels good.
"Sometimes, it's just the vibe of the team. There's no quit. It's trusting your teammates. We were just not ready to go home."
Game 4 left a sour taste in the Nets' mouths, to battle through three overtimes and come away with nothing.
"We thought we were gonna be 2-2 [in the series], but that Game 4 just hit us hard," Williams said. "But we were able to bounce back. That's the most important thing.
"All that other stuff doesn't matter. Now, it's just one game and it's gonna be fun."
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But despite trailing 3-1 in the series and the momentum overwhelmingly in the Bulls' favor, the Nets learned from Game 4 and felt they emerged a better team for it.
"We stayed together," Brooklyn big man Brook Lopez said after Thursday's win. "We didn't do that in the first few games. Tonight especially, we really played as a team all the way down the line. We got stops when we needed to and converted when we needed to."
"It means a lot," Williams said. "We said we were going to take it one game at a time. We dug a little hole, but we've been a resilient bunch all year. We fought back and were able to tie it up.
"Now we'll bring it back to Brooklyn, which is what we really wanted to do."