9. 1993-94 New Jersey Nets
The New Jersey Nets entered the 1993-94 season reeling from the June 7, 1993, death of All-NBA shooting guard Drazen Petrovic, who was killed in an automobile crash in Germany.
With legendary coach Chuck Daly entering his second season in New Jersey, the Nets faced the challenge of replacing an up-and-coming young star, but Daly rallied the team behind young first-time All-Stars Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson to a 45-win season.
Sir Charles In Charge
New Jersey had to rally from an awful start. The club won only four of 14 games in November, closing the month with seven losses in eight games after starting 3-3.
The season began to turn around in January, when the Nets put together a five-game winning streak. Another five-game winning run in February, sandwiched around the All-Star break, got New Jersey over .500 for the first time since the team was 2-1.
The Nets never dropped below the break-even threshold again and closed strong with five wins in their last six games to take the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, earning a date with the second-seeded New York Knicks in the first round.
New Jersey battled the heavily favored New Yorkers hard in the playoffs, losing a pair of tight decisions at Madison Square Garden before returning home to grab a 93-92 overtime win in Game 3.
Patrick Ewing went off in Game 4 for the Knicks, finishing with 36 points and 14 rebounds as New York closed out the series with a 102-92 win.
Still, it was a successful season for the Nets, who won despite the loss of Petrovic. Coleman earned his only All-NBA selection, making the third team after averaging 20.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while a healthy Anderson put up 18.8 points and 9.6 assists a night.
Kevin Edwards, signed as a free agent in July 1993, didn’t replace Petrovic’s numbers in the backcourt, but provided a solid 14 points a game as the third option and veteran Armen Gilliam put up 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds as the first big off the bench.
New Jersey also got solid play from rookie P.J. Brown, a second-round pick in 1992 who came back after a season in Europe to start 54 of the 79 games he played while giving the team 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a game.
But the run ended sooner than expected. Daly retired after the season, Coleman struggled to stay healthy the following year and New Jersey collapsed to 30 wins.