It was an embarrassing end to an inaugural season with such high expectations. The Nets’ dreams of a long playoff run came crashing to an underwhelming halt on their home court last Saturday night in a game seven defeat to the Chicago Bulls.
Despite giving away game four to Nate Robinson and the Bulls, the Nets managed to claw back into the series, winning games five and six. Coming into game seven, the Nets appeared to have everything going their way.
On top of riding a two-game win streak, including a win in Chicago, the Nets faced a Bulls team that would be generously described as depleted. The Bulls were playing without de facto starting point guard Kirk Hinrich and top offensive threat Loul Deng. On top of those key injuries, Joakim Noah continued to play through plantar fasciitis at less than 100%. With game seven back in the borough, and in a league where talent reigns supreme, the Nets had the clear advantage.
And yet, when the game tipped off, it was the Bulls who took it to the home team in the most important game of the season.
How could that be?
How could the team with more talent, backed by a raucous Brooklyn crowd, come out so flat? Where was the urgency? Where was the determination? Where was the effort?
As this column has noted over this inaugural season, the Nets’ play has been maddeningly inconsistent from start to finish. It often seemed as though the Nets lacked some of the intangibles necessary to beat good teams. And that certainly showed against a shorthanded Bulls team in game seven.
Perhaps some of that came from having a lame duck coach, who didn’t know what his future held and was never able to get his players up for the big moment. However, that should be no excuse for a bunch of professionals who shouldn’t need the coach to motivate them for a game seven on their home court.
Some players showed up for all 48 minutes (Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace) and others are nowhere to be found (Joe Johnson). They outscored the Bulls by 10 in one quarter, but got outscored by 13 in another. Game seven was truly the Nets season in a nutshell: they could never put it all together on the same night at the same time.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports-world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.