If there was an additional column in the NBA Standings for “effort” adjacent to the right of the wins and loss column, the Brooklyn Nets would still lag in wins, but their effort points would mount.
After losing the last two games to the Boston Celtics on Friday, and the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, close ones that could have gone either way, Brooklyn was finally able to pull one out, beating the Detroit Pistons 98-96 on Tuesday night with an off balance running jump shot by center Brook Lopez to win the game at the buzzer. A game that the Pistons needed in order to secure and maintain the eighth seed, the last playoff position available in each conference to advance to the NBA’s post season.
Intentional or not, the Miami Heat’s win, and Detroit’s loss in Brooklyn, knocked them out of the eighth seeded position. “We came here and expected to win,” said New York native, forward Tobias Harris, a thought shared, assumed by many of the better teams that have come to play ball this season at Barclays Center.
“I think we were passively aware of that,” said Lopez, the night’s hero of the game, 29 points, 7 rebounds, in regards to the Piston’s rickety position in the standings. “It’s always fun to play spoiler, but you know honestly, at the end of the day, we are really focused on ourselves and improving, and I think the constant theme and motive for the remainder of the season is to keep playing through, not quit, and have no slippage.
Brooklyn, now 14-56 with twelve games to go, play the Phoenix Suns tonight (Thursday) at home before heading out on the road for a game against the Washington Wizards tomorrow, Friday, a back to back, then onto Atlanta to play the Hawks on Sunday, and back home here against the Philadelphia 76’ers on Sunday. The 56 losses is an indication that their slippage has been severe this season.
Lopez talks about building a foundation. Since they’ve had one just a few years ago, it would be rebuilding the foundation, “And get things right,” said Lopez, “so that we have continuity going into next season.”
Lopez’s spectacular game winning shot off of an inbounds pass directly in front of the Piston’s bench with the clock ticking down from 2.4 seconds was not only big, but important for that foundation that he speaks of. Getting a win instead of an L in close games is what the better teams historically do. Close out in big moments. Lopez is capable.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson, nearing the end of his first year, reinforces Lopez’s statement and his conviction. “We’ve kind of set the groundwork on how we want to play,” he said, “and now it’s just reinforcing those habits, doing it for a longer period of time.” The number of wins in these last twelve games will determine that.