With the regular season’s backend now jeopardized after the NBA shut down last month, reflecting upon this year’s campaign has become a daily practice for Brooklyn Nets fans. When doing so, some games clearly stand out amongst the rest in telling this season’s story.
Assuming that the NBA will immediately jump to the postseason once reopening the league, the Brooklyn Nets will leave their regular season campaign unfinished and unsatisfied, bidding a short and unprecedented farewell to the additional eighteen games remaining on their plate. Despite its incompleteness, the 2019-2020 season never failed to entertain, as the team’s “up and down” win agenda certainly kept everyone at their seat’s edge.
Complied with statement wins against elite opposing teams, blown fourth-quarter leads, break out individual performances, and former head coach Kenny Atkinson’s firing, it seemed no positive nor negative trend lasted very long this year in Brooklyn.
If you missed out on any Nets games this year, you certainly have the time to get caught up now more than ever. But who am I to judge? I have more time on my hands than ever before, but still tell myself I do not have enough to watch The Irishman. Regardless, these five games summarize what exactly happened with the Nets this year.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Brooklyn Nets: Game 1
Perhaps no game embodies Brooklyn’s regular-season like their first one. With his 50 points, Kyrie Irving‘s introduction as a Net sent out shockwaves throughout the borough, as he broke the record for most points scored during a Nets debut. Meanwhile, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie contributed to the team’s scoring parade as solid second and third acts. However, Karl-Anthony Towns poured in 36 points himself, meeting almost no resistance as a shooter while also bullying Jarrett Allen in the paint all night long.
While the Nets started the game’s final quarter with a lead, it shrunk in accordance with the clock, as they both ran out and gave way to an overtime period that saw Irving miss the game-winning shot.
Although the team certainly wished to secure that always coveted first win that night, seeing Irving’s scoring output reminded us how high the team’s ceiling is going forward. Winning games obviously remains the team’s primary goal, but this contest showed Brooklyn fans exactly what they bought this summer, provoking a belief that even better things are still to come.
This ideology reflects this year’s season almost perfectly, as although a 30-34 record might not warrant any celebrations, the focus remains on the future with a full year of Kevin Durant and Irving on the horizon. Put simply, both this game and this season played into the prospect of accepting temporary disappointment while keeping an eye on the prosperity lying not too far ahead.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Brooklyn Nets: Game 40
During what eventually became a key turning point for the Nets last year en route to their surprise playoff berth, Brooklyn started reeling in wins by the pound once putting their eighth-straight loss dealt by Oklahoma City Thunder behind them. Faced with an eerily similar situation this year, the Nets once more found themselves dragged down by a losing streak, even finishing with a close loss to the Thunder as the streak’s grand finale once more.
But after eventually bringing the streak to an end, the Nets appeared incapable of fully rekindling that spark from last year during their January loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Unable to stop Ben Simmons who tallied a triple-double while dropping a career-high 34 points on Brooklyn, the Nets surrendered their second consecutive game, apparently determined to offer an equally painful sequel to their prior losing streak. While the Sixers stood as the clear favorite with the Nets still missing Irving’s services due to injury, the loss brought attention to Brooklyn’s failure to turn things around like last year, clearly differentiating the two squads. Headed towards yet another losing streak rather than the other way around, this game clearly highlighted how the Nets frankly lacked the heart and energy which they brought last year.
While Dinwiddie and LeVert lead the way combining for 38 points, they both shot a low percentage from the field while turning the ball over seven times. Lacking any boost from their supporting cast, the Nets failed to defend home court, losing 117-111.
On the surface, it may seem like just another loss, but given the circumstances and the similarities in play from last season, this loss meant a bit more.
Orlando Magic @ Brooklyn Nets: Game 56
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, blowing fourth-quarter leads came as a common trend for the team this season. No game saw the Nets collapse more dramatically than their February matchup against Orlando.
After extending their lead out to 19 points during the third quarter, few expected the Nets choke away such a large advantage during the game’s closing moments despite doing so recently against the Wizards and Thunder. But as Aaron Gordon sank shot after shot, the lead vanished seemingly into thin air while feelings of deja vu swept over Nets fans. Unable to stop the bleeding, Brooklyn next put up just 2 points during the overtime period, burdening fans with perhaps their most sour-tasting loss in recent memory.
While doing so might bring about the same distasteful feelings experienced after the loss, the Nets might need to take another look at this one, as the team’s tendency to blow late-game leads served as a primary pillar supporting Brooklyn’s 2019-2020 season. This pillar might not come as a positive one provoking neither current nor future success, but it remains a pillar nonetheless.
On the contrary though, continually falling victim to the same blunders time after time might allow Brooklyn to at last figure things out. Hopefully, this year’s struggle will play as a lesson rather than a continued habit once next season tips off. Wishful thinking aside, this chapter requires recognition as a staple for the season, whether we like it or not.
San Antonio Spurs @ Brooklyn Nets: Game 62
Shortly after dropping a career-high 51 points on the Boston Celtics, Caris LeVert tallied his first career triple-double while Nets legend Julius Erving watched from the sideline forming an occasion that felt like a long-awaited, yet fun blend between the team’s historic past and bright future
The Nets jumped out to a 20-6 lead during the first quarter and never looked back as they surged to a 139-120 victory. Although the night certainly belonged to LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris also contributed modestly, combining for 39 points.
While the contest lacked any excessive drama like many of its predecessors, LeVert’s continued steps toward stardom truly helped remind Nets fans just how talented their young core remains, composed of players not named Durant or Irving. While Brooklyn’s free-agency victory last summer still stands as the primary reason to expect more prosperous days next year, this served as a reminder that this team wields some home-grown talent as well, as it certainly pumped some extra life into the season. The entire ordeal felt increasingly special with arguably the greatest Net of all time present during the affair as well, serving as another reminder of what the star power LeVert displayed that night can do for a team.
The moment played big for LeVert individually too, as his remarkable play quieted the crowd calling on Sean Marks to potentially trade the shooting guard in an attempt to bring in a third star to pair with Durant and Irving. But instead, LeVert not only made his case to remain a Net, but also his case that he might deserve that “third-star” title himself. Having offered the team a necessary spark while also possibly answering the biggest question plaguing Brooklyn’s front office all year, this contest meant a great deal to the 2019-2020 season.
Brooklyn Nets @ Los Angeles Lakers: Game 64
Coming as easily the team’s most impressive feat, the Nets defeated the LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on the road in dramatic fashion.
After falling behind the Lakers early, Brooklyn pulled closer during the third quarter after putting up 31 points. Stretching the run into the fourth quarter, the Nets even lead by nine with six minutes left to play. Although they allowed Anthony Davis a good look at a potentially game-winning three-pointer, the shot rimmed out and the Nets not only avoided yet another blown fourth-quarter lead, they walked away with a victory over arguably the league’s most dominant team. The game also proved huge for interim head coach Jacque Vaughn, earning a 2-0 record at the helm since the team parted ways with Kenny Atkinson just a few days prior.
Few arguments exist prompting any other victory this year as the team’s most impressive, as Brooklyn not only beat the 49-14 Lakers, they did so without Irving. Besides the immediate satisfaction coming alongside this victory for Brooklyn, the idea that if the Nets can beat the Lakers without Irving or Durant, then doing so with both stars might not only be possible, but probable began to take form.
Given Brooklyn’s championship aspirations next year, a championship series against the Lakers appears somewhat realistic. With this victory in hand, the Nets must feel better about their odds for next year than during any other time this season, which comes as extreme importance due to this season serving as somewhat of a “tune-up” for next year once Durant and Irving return fully healthy.
But even with all that said, coming as potentially the team’s final game in who knows how long, this victory carries extra magnitude even beyond its improbability or what it might prophesize.