EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Seconds before the opening tip, and just after he psychs himself up by taking a few head-butts out on the pad supporting the basket stanchion, Kevin Garnett typically points to a few places in the crowd.
It's his way of testing the excitement level, seeing if the fans are all strapped in and ready for the show to begin.
Let's just say Garnett is quite excited to get a good gauge of things Friday night and soak up what could be an electric atmosphere.
Given the barb from Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, who before Game 1 used an expletive to explain how he felt about Brooklyn, Garnett can't wait to see how the natives welcome Toronto when their Eastern Conference first-round series, which is tied at 1, resumes at Barclays Center.
"I'm very eager, very eager," Garnett said after practice yesterday. "I want to see how they respond to the [expletive] Brooklyn. I'm very eager to see how they respond to those kids sitting in our arena. I don't know if that's going to be . . . Well, we'll see."
Does he have any ideas on how it will go down?
"I don't know," Garnett said. "I've never had a series in Brooklyn before. I've never said [expletive] Brooklyn before, so we will see what that's like."
Paul Pierce is anticipating a supercharged environment, a vocal crowd that will take delight in trying to make the young Raptors uncomfortable.
"I expect it to be a nice, raucous, rowdy crowd," Pierce said. "That's what a lot of playoff crowds are about. They're hungry for it. They've been watching playoffs for about a week now. Now they get a chance to come into our own building and enjoy it and really try to give us a lift."
In turning their venue into one of the most challenging places to play, the Nets have posted a 22-4 mark since Jan. 1 at their not-so-friendly-for-opponents confines. That's the third-best home record in the league during that span, and it included a 15-game home winning streak.
It's all about the mentality they've developed in these last four months of the franchise's second season in Brooklyn.
"Protecting home court," Deron Williams said. "We dropped a lot of games early at home, so we knew we had to protect home court and make it feel like a place that people felt like when they came in there, it would be tough to win. I think we've done it."
That's been their goal since Game 7 against the Bulls last May, when they dropped that home heartbreaker in the finale of their first-round series with Chicago. No doubt, those who were a part of that gut-wrenching defeat have tried to remove that disappointing night from their memory banks (or derive motivation from it).
The Nets hope the addition of championship winners Garnett and Pierce will give them the boost they need to put them over the top Friday night and give the fans something to feel good about, unlike the last time there was an NBA playoff logo on their court.
"I haven't even thought about it since then, but we're back in the postseason and the main thing you want to do is protect your home court," Joe Johnson said. "Honestly, we do have a sour taste in our mouth and we'll come out [Friday night] and erase it."