As a Brooklyn Nets fan, I’ve endured some absolutely horrifying years of bad rosters, blown leads, and downright unwatchable basketball. Naturally, this has led to constant pessimism regarding the Nets, even with the team exceeding expectations this year.
The Nets’ season has been spectacular even if they don’t make the playoffs — they’ve made headlines, young players have developed into star performers, and there’s an unshakeable confidence going into this summer’s free agency.
But Brooklyn hasn’t come all this way just to come up short. The Nets haven’t made the postseason since 2015, and this year’s team is a much better watch than that roster. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young may have been arguably better on paper, but the 2018-19 Nets are younger, scrappier and hungrier a la Alexander Hamilton.
The Nets have had the most difficult schedule following the All-Star break, and as they teeter on the East’s 7th seed, have made some memorable and historic moments. Against the Los Angeles Clippers, they were down 10 points with 53 seconds left in regulation, and I prematurely turned the game off in frustration.
After checking what I expected to be a final score, the game wasn’t over and the Nets willed their way into tying the game with 5 seconds left.
In the end, Lou Williams hit a faraway, leaning three-point game-winner, but the Nets did all they could. It was heart-wrenching to see the ball swish in, and even though the comeback effort came up short, it took an incredibly difficult shot by the best bench scorer in NBA history to put Brooklyn down. You win some, you lose some.
Against Sacramento, it was a similar tale. Sacramento is far from the dysfunctional team they’ve been in the past, and like the Brooklyn Nets, are on the rise. At the start of the 4th quarter, the Nets were down 25 points and it looked as if their night was over.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
D’Angelo Russell erupted for 27 of his career-high 44 points in the 4th quarter to lead the Nets to victory. The historic 28-point comeback was topped off by a game-winning lay-in by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, putting the Nets in front and ending the game.
The Kings win was a signature Brooklyn performance: Russell’s explosion was the story, but the game-winner came from the underrated, longest-tenured Net. Hollis-Jefferson is known for his defense and tenacity, but when the play was called for him, he came up big.
The Nets then picked up a win against the Lakers in what was, on paper, the easiest game of their remaining schedule. It seems ludicrous to say against a LeBron James team, but the Lakers have been a mess, and Brooklyn took advantage.
Despite a career game from JaVale McGee, the Nets shut the Lakers’ playoff hopes for this season down for good, and picked up a necessary win.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Nets, with the Trail Blazers, Celtics, Raptors, Bucks, Sixers, Pacers and Heat in the way of playoff contention. Brooklyn is two games ahead of 8th place and 2.5 ahead of 9th, meaning they need some wins against the East’s elite teams to stay alive.
Playoffs or not, the Nets’ future is as bright as ever. This season went from “maybe tank for one more year since the Nets finally have their own draft pick” to a potential playoff run. Even with a face-palming, eye-rolling history and a tremendously difficult schedule ahead, the Nets never doubt themselves, and we shouldn’t doubt them either.