Appreciate the Brooklyn Nets. They play basketball. There’s no drama. No back stories. There’s no reality series, that’s why Magic Johnson stepping off from the Lakers, Chris Mullin bouncing from St. John’s and the patheticness of the Knicks can grab all of the attention, the headlines from a team like Brooklyn that’s been working hard, improving their players, their team and their win totals. Last night’s 113-94 win against the Miami Heat at Barclays, their 42nd, ending a regular season of surprised achievement, was overshadowed by Dwayne Wade’s retirement, his final game in the NBA.
With the attention being paid to Wade who put up a triple double, 25 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists highlighted by his entourage of family and friends that included wife / actress Gabrielle Union, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony prominently seated on the floor of Brooklyn’s court, it left the minimum amount of attention for the Nets to shine.
“That dude is a legend,” stated Brooklyn’s top scorer D’Angelo Russell who dropped 21 points 7 rebounds and 5 assists himself against the Heat, his 48th game this season of scoring 20 or more points.
“Just to see him on his way out like that, for me, it’s special.”
The game was a little different, “Because of the circumstances,” noted Nets’ head coach Kenny Atkinson who’s now preparing for his first post season appearance, his third season with Brooklyn.
“Really excited. My first time as a head coach.”
With this all behind them, Brooklyn’s reality is an Eastern Conference 6 seed in the NBA playoffs that begins this weekend, Saturday. They secured it Sunday night with a road win verses the Indiana Pacers and losses by the Miami Heat and the Detroit Pistons.
The Nets haven’t made a playoff appearance since the 2014-2015 season. In early December after losing 12-of-14 games, 8 in a row, not much was expected from them. They were thought of as a team settling for a lower seeding in the Eastern Conference. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen. Afterall, Brooklyn had only won 28-games last season, a twelfth place finish.
Brooklyn turned things around after their misfortune. They went on a 7 game win steak, 9-of-10.
There was another, 8-of-10 and several two and four game streaks, most notably wins against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday 133-128, and the Pacers on Sunday, 108-96.
“It means a lot,” said Joe Harris, the Net’s small forward. “To exceed expectations for a lot of us in here, to see how far we’ve come. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for this organization.
As a 6 seed, Brooklyn will play the 3, the Philadelphia 76’ers in the first round. It’s 7-game series. The best of seven. The first two games wil be held in Philly, the next two here in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn and Philly played each other four times this season splitting the wins two each, both winning on their home courts, losing on the road, but the playoffs is the start of a new season. Eight teams from the Eastern Conference, eight from the west will participate.
Milwaukee, seeded 1 in the east, the best team on paper in the league will play the Pistons seeded 8. The Toronto Raptors, the 2 seed plays Orlando the 7. The Sixers, a 3 plays Brooklyn, the 6, and the Boston Celtics, the 4 plays the Indiana Pacers, the 5.
“I think it’s great that it’s Brooklyn verses Philadelphia,” said Atkinson who’ll have two full days to prepare. “Right down the turnpike. An exciting matchup.”