There was once a time when Brian Scalabrine wasn’t bashing the Nets on Boston airwaves, Instead, he was hitting crucial 3-pointers in a playoff game as a part of the New Jersey Nets.
On this date 16 years back, Scalabrine had the game of his Nets tenure and one of the best of his entire career: It was Game 5 of the 2003-2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Jason Kidd and the Nets were down 2-0 when they rallied and won two games at Continental Airlines Arena in Jersey.
They went back to Detroit looking to take a 3-2 series lead when they found themselves in a dog fight at The Palace. Scalabrine was having himself a good night, but he typically sat at the end of the bench. As the game went into overtime, all four Nets big men fouled out: Kenyon Martin, Jason Collins, Rodney Rogers and finally, Aaron Williams.
That’s when Lawrence Frank looked towards the end of the bench and inserted Scalabrine at the center position. Small ball wasn’t a thing at the time, but perhaps it foreshadowed the future because “The White Mamba” made Detroit pay from the perimeter.
The Nets trailed by one with less than 45 seconds left. Richard Jefferson hoisted a 3-pointer that clanked to the side when Scalabrine made an improbable play and saved the ball — and the game, giving the Nets possession which ultimately led to a third overtime.
At that point, he was 5-of-6 from the field and 3-of-3 from three with 14 points.
In the third overtime, the Nets were exhausted. Kidd, Jefferson and Kerry Kittles did all they could to lead the Nets but Detroit wouldn’t let up. That’s when Scal had his moment. The Nets led 119-118 . The shot clock was down to five. Jefferson made a spin towards the rim and kicked it to a wide open Scalabrine in the corner.
Clean shot, buzzer sounds.
Nets lead, 122-118, now with 41.5 seconds left. They went on to win 127-120 as Jefferson put the nail in the coffin with four free throws in the final 10 seconds of the game. But this was a White Mamba’s game. Scalabrine became the hero nobody expected, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and 4-of-4 from three.
Kidd and the Nets were going for their third straight Finals appearance, but it never happened. The Pistons won the next two and went on to win the NBA Championship. RJ recently said that even if the Nets had made their third Finals, he almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to play. His knee was killing him and in fact, he had knee surgery in the summer.
The rest is history. And mostly forgotten.
The Nets run had ended, Bruce Ratner bought the team. KMart was traded to Denver and Kittles to the Clippers (and played only 11 games before retiring.) VInce Carter arrived but the team barely made the playoffs, then lost in the first round.
As for Scalabrine, he got a nice contract from the Celtics a year later, then became the beneficiary of Danny Ainge’s big coup in the summer of 2007 being part of the 2008 NBA champs, although he only averaged 1.8 points a game. He made the Finals again in 2010 when Boston lost to the Lakers. He spent two more years in the league, playing for the Bulls. The rest is broadcasting history.
So, 11 seasons, four trips to the Finals and one shining moment. Not bad for a guy from Enumclaw, Washington.