I've been to a lot of Nets games—both in Jersey and in Brooklyn. I've watched nearly every game over the past two seasons while writing for NetsDaily. But never, ever have I seen a Nets team play like they did on Monday night.
The Nets have stepped up in big moments in both the regular season and in the postseason since the move to Brooklyn with clutch shots and stellar play, but nothing compared to Monday's Game 4. The atmosphere, the basketball, the big moments. It's a game that should be remembered by all Nets fans.
We all know the basics leading up to Monday's game: the Nets competed with the number-one-seeded Hawks for the first three games of the series, winning just one of them. That win Saturday was flukey in a way, though, considering Atlanta missed on shots they typically hit, and it seemed as if the Hawks sleep-walked through the game. A win is a win, but the Nets weren't given the credit they were necessarily due for that win.
Following Game 3, the national media was hesitant to vindicate this Nets team. People focused on Deron Williams' lack of fourth quarter minutes (I'd like to think I focused on both), and how this will most likely be a gentlemen's sweep, while, sadly,The tweet that probably got the most retweets was one of the Nets crowd 10 minutes to tip off. A late crowd. A near non-existent one.
Even when the Nets get a big win, they are only looked at for their flaws.
Game 4 was different, though. The crowd wasn't in their seats at game time, similar to Game 3, but what the national media and television coverage didn't mention was that the security lines were so long they stretched out of the Barclays Center, and about 80 percent of the fans in the building past security were at concession stands -- Game 4 started at 7:00 PM, as opposed to the normal 7:30 PM start. Still, the focus was on the empty seats.
When tip-off started, though, the crowd was essentially filled to its capacity, and not only that; that crowd was damn loud. Brooklyn is constantly critiqued for having a poor fanbase, but Monday night the Barclays Center was loud from tip-off to the final buzzer. There was a buzz in the air early on, for a Nets team that trailed for most of the game but wouldn't go away quietly, similar to the crowd.
Deron Williams was in rare form last night, a savior for a fanbase looking for someone to praise. He found guys spotting up, with looks that I couldn't see, even with 20/20 vision. The $100-million dollar man started his game with spot up jumpers, but as the game continued, his confidence rose. His spot-ups turned to pull ups, some of which that were downright filthy. He hit Jeff Teague with crossover after crossover, but then when the game mattered most he hit his most ridiculous shot of the night.
Williams knew he had it going last night, and he made me eat crow for all I said following his Game 3 dud. But it wasn't just Williams who stepped up for Brooklyn. Alan Anderson received late minutes and played fantastic ball, hitting spot-up threes off of Williams' penetrations, sticking to Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver, and finding the Nets reliable players when they needed the ball.
Bojan Bogdanovic continued his impressive postseason run with a couple of timely threes and fantastic defense on Kyle Korver. Every time a Korver three went up though, all of the Barclays Center would hold their breath. In a game of this magnitude, and back and forth like it was, every shot seemed to take an extra few seconds. As the Nets pushed up by five with about five minutes remaining, the clock couldn't have moved slower if it tried.
And just like that, the Hawks creeped back. The Nets offense tightened up and went to iso-ball, and the Hawks continued to grab everything on the offensive glass. The crowd got anxious, begging for DWill to step up and close this sucker out after Korver got three (one of which was a truly good look) three-point attempts on one possession and missed them all. A poor play by each team in the final 16 seconds took us to overtime. The final stand for the "zombie Nets" that refuse to die. The crowd was in full throttle here. Maybe the loudest it's ever been.
Overtime was truly a blur.
The better team won on Monday. Brooklyn won. This wasn't like Saturday. Atlanta played a fine game, but Brooklyn played a better one, even if it took Deron Williams turning into the human torch. The crowd brought the energy that carried the home team throughout the game and kept them hanging around.
Now we have a best of three series with Brooklyn carrying all the momentum. As I tried to think of what is actually happening in this series on my way home last night, I came to this conclusion: the Nets are playing with house money and know they have nothing to lose; they sneaked into the playoffs on the last night of the season while the Hawks went through the final two months at half-speed. The Nets, with some playoff savvy veterans (Joe Johnson, Deron Williams) mixed in with some youth and athleticism (Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic), are out-dueling the Hawks who may not be prepared for this moment.
And it's not just the players who are surprising much of the national media by stepping up their game. The fans, the "late-showing", "really, really quiet" Nets fans are stepping up their game. And it feels so damn good to hear them.
One game doesn't make a series, on and off the court, but enough with criticizing the Nets. Enough with criticizing their crowd. They are giving the number one team in the East a run for their money in a series many argue they shouldn't even be a part of.
We're witnessing great basketball games, seeing players elevate and hearing from a crowd that doesn't get it's due. We're two wins away from spoiling the party. Two wins from making a statement, much like the fans made during Game 4. And it feels really, really cool.
Enjoy this, it's the playoffs.
- Nets Fans Brought It for Game 4 at Barclays Center (Video) - Brooklyn Nets