Imagine 190 million dollars. Imagine all that money disappearing, disappearing slowly into the spring day. That is the Brooklyn Nets right now. They are on the brink of embarrassing themselves for the second consecutive season except this season will be even worse. They are one game away from having this long season come to a heart-breaking end.
Last night's game was similar to this entire season in that it was similar to a roller coaster. Both started slow and fine with a big drop and what seemed like rock bottom (the game's being Kyle Lowry's buzzer beating prayer, and the season's being Brook Lopez's injury). However, the Nets crawled out of the grave they dug for themselves. Down 26, or 11 games under .500, they battled back with help from the likes of Joe Johnson and role players such as Mirza Teletovic, and got all squared late in the contest. That was the peak, the Nets breaking .500 and cementing a playoff berth and tying the Raptors on the road in the decisive game of the season. But then, they had one last big drop, and that is where the two subjects come together: the Nets game five loss. I'm not going to go into detail about what happened, we all know. Blatche threw the ball away and the Nets lost. Now lets look at the big picture.
The Nets are the biggest investment in basketball history. After getting thoroughly beat by a bruised and battered team that had twice the heart Brooklyn did, the Nets went out and acquired aging veterans who exemplified heart and championship qualities. They were the antithesis of the CBA, spending as much as they see fit and giving a middle finger to the luxury tax. Mikhail Prokhorov said he was going to win a championship with this team, and he has been hell bent on doing so.
Now, after everything that has happened, national TV embarrassments, injuries, bad promotions, the Nets have gone from being the top challenger to the Heat's title reign to being 48 minutes away from shining their golf shoes in about two weeks.
The Raptors have outplayed the Nets all series long, sans game one, and have made the adjustments that the elite teams make. Toronto isn't necessarily an elite team, but this is more of a testament that the Nets aren't. Dwane Casey has inserted different lineups and utilized his bench far better then Jason Kidd has throughout the past six games and has had to deal with injuries form key players Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson.
The Nets are far more talented on paper then the Raptors. They have champions and talent at all positions and a deep bench. Kidd hasn't done his best job in his playoff debut, but the players haven't shown up. The only consistent player this series for Brooklyn is Joe Johnson, who has had the Raptors whole defense focus on him now. No one else has been able to step up for more than short spurts.
Paul Pierce said before game four on Sunday that he expected that game to be the one where they finally put it all together. After that game, and the next one, the Nets are still searching for that "great" win. The fact that the team still has a chance to win this series is a feat in itself considering how shaky their play has been, but here they are, giving you that little opening. The Nets showed some hope last night, which symbolizes their team as a whole this season.
When the Nets lost on Christmas to the Bulls in blowout fashion, everyone counted them out, but then they created that sliver of hope after beating the Thunder eight days later. Then they completed sweep of the Heat and everyone was back on the Nets championship bandwagon. Then they did it last night, when they battled back from 26 down in a quarter and change only to let you down again. I was lost for words last night in that I can't believe that Brooklyn battled back from an insurmountable deficit only to lose in dramatic fashion. Just so Nets.
Now the series as a whole has that small amount of hope in it. Sure, they can win tomorrow night and force game 7 at the Air Canada Centre, setting up another franchise-defining series finale, but then lose with all eyes on them. That would be a sickening end to a turbulent season. But also, just so typical Nets. All the long time fans know that this is just what happens and fate is a crazy thing.
I think they will win tomorrow night, though, making the aforementioned seventh game hypothesis a reality. Throw out the stats because the Nets can beat this team. It also may be Kevin Garnett's final game, the end of an era. If Kidd decides to inject this team with urgency and let the Big Ticket loose once, maybe twice more, then you know he is making the play for the Nets to win. Garnett has too much heart to roll over and let his career die like it has. He left the team that made him a champion to become a two-time champion with Brooklyn and for nothing else. He won't let the dream die until the horn sounds and the opposition has won.
But, we are used to it at this point, readers. The Nets will, unfortunately, probably lose tomorrow despite my thoughts. I really, really hope not, but all evidence points to the contrary.
The Nets wanted the spotlight. They wanted to take over New York. They wanted to be recognized as a contender. Well, the organization has that now. No more Knicks, a potential shot at knocking off the best player since Jordan, and a lot of legacies on the line, what will Brooklyn do with everything on the line?