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Heartless: Nets no longer control playoff destiny after 113-86 rout from Bulls

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN -- The Atlanta Hawks are smiling ear-to-ear watching the Nets choke late in the season. They're the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and at this rate -- thanks to the Nets -- they'll own a potential lottery pick.

It'll also be the second time in three seasons in Brooklyn that the Bulls can potentially ruin the Nets' season. Two years ago, it came in the playoffs in a 7-game series. Monday night, it was a regular season game that the Nets absolutely needed in order to control their destiny. It was a typical grind it out game with Chicago, but the Nets came up short and lost 113-86.

Almost had the same feeling of Game 7 in the 2012-2013 playoffs.

It was the most important game of the season. Nets fans were pumped up, yet it felt like a road game from the second the refs tipped the ball off. Boo's were heard all around the Barclays Center as the Nets shot 37% from the field and dished out an awfully low 12 assists.

None of their big time players showed up. Deron Williams was held to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting. Brook Lopez was held to 13 points and Joe Johnson was held to 12. It's really not the first time the former "big three" crumpled in a big game.

After the game Joe Johnson was asked if this team is mentally strong enough to get through this. He responded with "I have no idea."

"We decided that we wanted to do everything off the dribble and on our own," Williams said. "We didn't get many assists and you really can't win against teams like this when you're not sharing the ball and not playing the way that we've had success."

After all, the three combined for 25 points yesterday in Milwaukee with D-Will shooting 1-of-11 from the floor, Lopez 3-of-8 and Joe Johnson 3-of-9. The three will earn a combined $58.7 million this season.

Also similar to Sunday in Milwaukee, the Nets were destroyed in the third quarter. The Bulls led by seven at half, but finished the third on a 13-2 run to increase Brooklyn's sad deficit to 22. They were outscored 30-15 in the quarter and watched Nikola Mirotic cap off the run with two three-pointers to end the run and essentially the game.

The rookie Mirotic finished the night with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting, 6-of-11 from three. He couldn't have done it without Derrick Rose, whose speed gave the Nets nightmares all night. Rose's speed led to easy penetration and wide open buckets for the Bulls. He went for 13 and 7 in 23 minutes, while Pau Gasol put home 22 and 11 in 31 minutes.

It was just another one of those games we were used to from the Nets a month or two back. Flat. Gutless. Zero fight. It would make sense if they had an off shooting night, but it's unacceptable to lose out on 50/50 balls and fail to even put up a fight. Especially in front of the home crowd.

Bojan Bogdanovic was one of the few bright spots with 17 points off the bench. With him, off the bench, Jarrett Jack finished with 15 points. They both led the team.

John Schuhmann of (and the founder of NetsDaily) criticized Lionel Hollins' decision to play Jack as much as he did.

Of course, the Nets season isn't over, but now they've lost control of their own destiny. In order for Brooklyn to make the playoffs, Indiana will have to lose one of the two games remaining. The Pacers will play against the Washington Wizards and then Memphis Grizzlies, so get your John Wall jerseys out at pray that the Nets can squeak in the playoffs with all hope almost lost.

The Nets have one game remaining against the Orlando Magic this Wednesday night. Their fate will be determined literally at midnight. It's all coming down to the last of days in the NBA for the Nets. But it's unjustified to depend on them to win when they need it most.

"We win Wednesday and they [Indiana] don't win both games, we're still in," Hollins said post-game. "That's the way I'm looking at it. We were dealt a tough schedule. We had Toronto, Atlanta, Portland, Washington, and then Atlanta, Portland, Milwaukee, Chicago. We had a tough schedule, but we've hung in there and we're still there. It's not over."

The Nets, who've played nine games in the last 13 days, are not practicing Tuesday and are skipping shootaround Wednesday.

For more player quotes, check out our "LISTEN UP!" feature.

For more on the Chicago Bulls, check them out at Blog a Bull.