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Desperate Nets in danger of missing playoffs

Loss to Chicago Puts Brooklyn’s Playoff Hopes in Peril

April 14, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lionel Hollins and his Nets have gone from controlling their own destiny to needing help from others as their tenuous playoff hopes took a dire turn for the worse Monday night in Downtown Brooklyn. AP photo
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The Nets are hoping there is at least one more fortuitous turn to what has been a topsy-turvy regular season.

Otherwise, there will be no playoffs in Brooklyn later this month.

Having spent the past several weeks scratching and crawling their way back into playoff position, the Nets have looked like a team desperate to give it away over the past two games.

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And now they’ll need some help to earn their third consecutive postseason berth since arriving in our fair borough.

“I really, honestly can’t explain it,” Joe Johnson humbly admitted following Monday night’s deflating 113-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls before a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“I don’t even know how that’s possible with this being a very important game. So I really don’t know.”

The Nets (37-44) were riding the wave of their March-April resurgence into Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, needing one win and a single loss by Indiana to wrap up a playoff spot.

But the Jason Kidd-led Bucks slaughtered Brooklyn, 96-73, becoming just the third team since 1978-79 to reach the postseason after finishing with the NBA’s worst record the previous year.

That had to sting, considering Kidd’s well-chronicled power play and ultimate defection to Milwaukee after guiding Brooklyn to the Eastern Conference semifinals in his rookie campaign on the bench.

But the Nets were still very much in control of their own destiny when they took the floor at Barclays on Monday, only to cede it to the Pacers, who with a win Tuesday night against Washington and another Wednesday in Memphis could send the Nets home early.

“We really don’t have control,” Johnson pointed out after putting up 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting. “It’s in Indiana’s control. We just got to look forward to Wednesday and come out and play.”

That is, of course, if Brooklyn can find a way to shake off its current two-game malaise and beat Orlando here on Wednesday night in its regular-season finale.

A loss to the Magic would spell almost certain doom for the Nets, unless the Pacers drop their final two contests as Brooklyn still holds the tiebreaker should the teams finish deadlocked.

“There’s really no explanation, no excuse,” Deron Williams admitted following a 3-of-13 shooting performance against the stingy Bulls, who were simply in town to tune up for the playoffs at the Nets’ expense and didn’t even bother to play Poly Prep alum and All-Star center Joakim Noah.

“I’d think we’d play with a little more desperation with the way things are playing out right now, but it hasn’t,” Williams added. “The only thing we can do now is get the one on Wednesday, and hope for the best.”

Rookie Bojan Bogdanovic scored 17 points, Jarrett Jack added 15 and Brook Lopez had 13 for Brooklyn, which trailed Chicago by nine points at the half before the Bulls away with a 30-15 third-quarter surge.

“It was very surprising and disappointing at the same time,” said Jack. “We were basically out of the game. They came out and hit us in the mouth early. We were playing catch-up pretty much the entire game.”

The Nets, who were without key reserve Alan Anderson for a sixth straight game due to a sprained left ankle, were doubtlessly forced into scoreboard-watching on Tuesday night to see if they had an opportunity to win their way into the playoffs with a victory over Orlando on Wednesday.

If not, they will face the Magic knowing that Indiana (37-43) still holds the keys to the eighth and final berth in the East.

“I just feel like we’ve got to step up to the challenge,” noted Jack. “Teams know the level that we’ve been playing at the past couple of weeks, and they’re going to come in here with their antennas up and try top take away the things that we’ve been doing successfully, so we’ve got to find other ways to get the job done.”

“We’re just not playing well,” added Thaddeus Young, who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds against Chicago. “We just need to go out there and play better and get back to the days that we’ve been playing as a basketball team that got us to this point.”

As many as 3 ½ games behind the final two playoff spots early last month following a five-game losing streak that included four consecutive defeats in Brooklyn, the Nets surged back to win 12 of their next 16 games.

But these two losses have put their suddenly tenuous playoff hopes in grave peril, and left them hoping for one more defining moment Wednesday night.

“It’s not over,” first-year Nets coach Lionel Hollins insisted. “I know we’re going to be written off tomorrow in the paper, but that’s your job. Do what you want to do, but we’ll be here on Wednesday and try to close out the season with a victory and see what happens.”

Nothing But Net: Bogdanovic went 3-for-6 from 3-point range Monday against the Bulls, and is now third among all NBA rookies with 87 shots made from beyond the arc this season. Only Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic (97) and Boston’s Marcus Smart (88) rank ahead of Bogdanovic in that category entering Wednesday’s regular-season finale. … The Nets shot 37 percent (32-of-87) from the floor Monday while allowing the Bulls to hit half (44-for-88) of their field-goal attempts. … If the Nets do advance to the playoffs, they will almost certainly face top-seeded Atlanta, a team that beat them four times this season, in the opening round.

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