The Nets came to national prominence when they took down the Spurs in Game 2 of the 2003 NBA Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs were the class of the NBA in 2003. The Nets? Well, they were just the team that traipsed through the watered-down East, as far as the rest of the country was concerned. Good for them.
Game 1 of the ’03 Finals went accordingly for those who believed that narrative — Tim Duncan put up 32 and 20, and San Antonio won 101-89. Ho, hum.
With 10:25 left in the fourth, a J-Kidd triple put the Nets up a remarkable 72-61. Of course, then the Spurs locked in with their championship mentality (of course, they’d won in ’99) and began to exert their home court advantage.
With 3:58 left, the lead was five again following a Kenyon Martin lay-up and two missed free throws from Duncan, seemingly giving the Nets a chance to put the game away. Didn’t happen; two-pointers from David Robinson and Tony Parker, coupled with a Richard Jefferson turnover, made it Spurs ball, 80-79 game, 1:32 left. That’s when Duncan…turned the ball right back over.
Without that key sequence, Stephen Jackson’s three with 10 seconds left would’ve been a death knell. Instead, it cut the Nets’ lead to one, a Kidd free throw made it two once more, and a final Jackson miracle went for naught. 87-85, cementing the ultimate Nets escape.
Of course, it wouldn’t be enough to take the series, but to this day, it’s likely the franchise’s most enduring Finals memory. They haven’t made it back since, and most of the team’s iconic players toiled rather than arriving again on the big stage.
In fact, it took Richard Jefferson over a decade to get back, occupying an entirely different body.
Championship hopes will certainly linger around the current iteration of the Nets once Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return healthy. But no matter how they perform in the regular season, these 2003 Nets should serve as a reminder to the world — with the right star power in place, an inferior conference’s representative can give anyone a scare.
Even the beasts of the West.