Game 6 Recap: Goodbye, 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets
At one point during Brooklyn’s 111-87 loss to the Hawks in Game 6, the Barclays Center crowd rained boos upon the Nets after a flurry of gut-wrenching turnovers allowed Atlanta to break the game open. This run gave the Hawks the elimination game win after a back-and-forth series that nobody expected. So why boo?
The Nets weren’t supposed to be here. We’re not saying goodbye to one Nets team. We’re saying goodbye to four Nets teams that finally found an identity that felt right just soon enough to squeeze into a Playoffs spot. If Brooklyn knew what its best looked like from the start of the season, perhaps it wouldn’t have had to face the first-seed Hawks in the opening round. But the Nets cycled through different starting lineups, rotation players and methods of attack all the way down to the year’s final stretch.
The Nets got off to a shaky start back in October and November, failing to beat any good teams while arguably running the most unwatchable offense in the league. Coach Lionel Hollins tried to make Mason Plumlee a post-up player. Bojan Bogdanovic did very little to impress. Deron Williams was visibly old and slow. The Brook Lopez we know today looked washed up. It wasn’t all bad, because Brooklyn was a solid defensive team in these early months. It wouldn’t last, though.
Lopez injuries and general struggles gave Plumlee another chance to shine, this time with better results. But the Nets team as a whole fell off a cliff as the calendar flipped to 2015. Jarrett Jack took on a starting role with D-Will hurt, Darius Morris played rotation minutes and Sergey Karasev became Hollins’s go-to 3-and-D wing. Brooklyn finished with the second-worst point differential for the month of January. Thing is, you couldn’t even call the Nets a lottery team because the Hawks have the ability to swap picks with them. There wasn’t a silver lining. Brooklyn was bad everywhere, until the All-Star break came around.
The Nets traded Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young over the break, but didn’t give Young big minutes right away. Instead, Joe Johnson started at the four for a stretch, and good things came of it. Lopez began dominating, Bogdanovic became a menace and Markel Brown emerged in the rotation. The Nets weren’t winning many games, but their offense was NBA-worthy and we saw many schemes and twists introduced that would define the rest of their season. This team wasn’t going to be a patented Hollins burly defensive unit. No, it was going to maximize on its starpower and outscore teams.
Once Young became a starter, the Nets finally saw some real success. They weren’t destroying teams, but they were winning games good teams win and putting up fights against the league’s best. Young had revitalized Brooklyn’s offense while bringing some frontcourt stability that was lacking with Johnson at the four. Bogdanovic and Lopez continued their stellar play. Brown more and more looked like a must-keep prospect. Plumlee was no longer a factor and the Nets had to make a postseason push with Mirza Teletovic recovering, but it worked.
Despite this evolution, Brooklyn forced the Hawks to six games with three Net losses coming in tight contests. They fought, and came much closer to overthrowing the East’s best team than many, including myself, expected. So why boo?