The Brooklyn Nets have officially clinched a playoff berth. Oh what a long, strange trip it’s been.
They simply aren’t supposed to be here. Nobody thought they would be.
But here they are.
The Nets (41-40) solidified their spot with a 108-96 win over the Indiana Pacers, Sunday evening. It was their second straight victory and their third in the last five against top tier teams, including Boston, Milwaukee and now Indiana. The 41 wins mark the most since the 2013-2014 season.
It gets better: Since the Detroit Pistons lost earlier, the Nets will be the seventh seed at the very worst. They could have clinched the sixth seed if the Pistons had beaten the Hornets but they didn’t. Now, the sixth seed will have to wait till Wednesday’s game vs. the Heat. A win and they will play the 76ers. Lose and they go up against Toronto.
They had to go through the last team that made the post season to get to the post season in Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young. It never looked like there was a doubt, though.
The Nets came out of the gates with a ton of energy and tenacity, represented by a 9-0 run to start the game. They flirted with double digit leads most of the way, but Indiana wouldn’t go away. The Nets simply didn’t make them pay from the field, so they did the little things.
They out-rebounded the Pacers 52-33, including 17 offensive rebounds.
They hit 17-of-22 from the line, while allowing just seven free throws for Indiana.
Joe Harris led the way in the first half — hitting 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from three to notch 18 points. Indiana hung around and trimmed the deficit down to six, but the Nets answered with a 9-0 run — 17-7 extended, which gave them a 16-point lead in the fourth.
Indiana made their final push and got it within 10, but D’Angelo Russell halted that real quick with an and-one to cap off his night, tying Drazen Petrovic for most points in a single season.
This one wasn’t all that close, but the difference maker this entire season has been closing out close games. The Nets finished 19-9 in games decided by five or less. Last year, they were 18-32 in games in which they were within five points with five minutes or less.
Nobody thought it would happen, but they proved everybody wrong.
The Nets lost Caris LeVert early in the season due to an ugly injury. They went on a skid and owned an 8-18 record with potential lottery thoughts on their minds. I asked a source close to the Nets if they were deflated after losing an eighth straight game.
“Deflated? Nah. We have another game tomorrow.”
And that’s the mindset that carried them. They won seven straight games after that — 20 of the next 26. They’re 33-22 since December 7. D’Angelo Russell became an All-Star and everybody followed suit. Behind his lead and LeVert’s return, the Nets rallied late in the season and got wins when they needed them most.
Look at where this team was when Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson took over three years back.
Look at them now.
The word culture isn’t something to be tossed around lightly. It means something in Brooklyn, where players have revitalized their careers and the narrative on the organization has shifted 180 degrees.
It wasn’t long ago the Nets were the laughingstock of the league for having zero picks. Now, they’re a breath of fresh air for the league. And it’s only just the beginning with three draft picks and enough cap space for a max free agent in the summer of 2019.
But for now, let’s enjoy this one.
CELEBRATE WITH WINE?
Kenny Atkinson swears he didn't know score of the Miami loss until Post colleague Brian Lewis asked before game. Told me no one was following details before the game. But I guarantee you every player in that locker room will take the court tonight knowing they are in with a win.— Greg Logan (@GregLogan1) April 7, 2019
Kenny Atkinson admitted he will have a glass of wine to celebrate... or overthink until Wednesday.
“One glass. Win or lose tonight I’ll have one glass.” pic.twitter.com/Ji0N5eQAYD— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 7, 2019
Jared Dudley last night on #Nets postseason hopes: “We want to control our own fate. We want to win in Indiana and celebrate and have the decision to rest guys on Wednesday and see who we want to play first round.” #NBA @JaredDudley619— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) April 7, 2019
For a different perspective, head on over to Indy Cornrows, our Pacers sister site on SB Nation.
The Nets will face the Miami Heat in the final game of the season this Wednesday at home. It will be Dwayne Wade’s last game. LeBron James is expected to attend.
- Box Score: Brooklyn Nets 108, Indiana Pacers 96 - NBA.com
- Video: Brooklyn Nets 108, Indiana Pacers 96 - NBA.com
- Atkinson on 108-96 win (Video) - YES Network
- Wear Brooklyn At? (Video) - YES Network
- Nets matchup with Pacers (Video) - Sarah Kustok & Ian Eagle - YES Network
- Nets end playoff drought with 108-96 win over Pacers - Michael Marot - AP
- Nets defeat Pacers to clinch playoff berth - Reuters
- Nets are in the playoffs, and the turnaround is complete - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Vets give Nets the grit they will need to succeed in NBA playoffs - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets clinch first playoff berth since 2015 - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Russell credits entire team for reaching playoffs - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets headed into playoffs--and beyond--on the rebound - Kyle Wagner - New York Daily News
- How the Nets exceeded expectations in Year 3 of their rebuild with a trip to the playoffs - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York
- NETS 108, PACERS 96: BROOKLYN CLINCHES RETURN TO PLAYOFFS WITH INDIANA VICTORY - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- GALLERY: NETS VS. PACERS - Brooklyn Nets
- Lack of early energy costs Pacers in home finale against Nets - Kyle Neddenriep - Indianapolis Star