Brooklyn Boro

End of the road for Brooklyn’s title dreams

Nets' season closes with Game 4 loss to Boston at Barclays

April 25, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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“Wait ’till next year” was a familiar refrain here in Downtown Brooklyn during the 1940s and ’50s, when the Dodgers were losing the World Series to the Yankees seemingly every fall.

Brooklyn Nets fans were forced to say the same Monday night at the Barclays Center.

Despite a fourth-quarter comeback, the Nets saw their latest bid for a title end in misery with a 116-112 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in front of a disappointed sellout crowd of 18,099 on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

After struggling mightily with his shooting touch during the first three games, Kevin Durant finally got in the groove Monday.

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He finished with a game-high 39 points to go with nine assists and seven rebounds for Brooklyn, which trailed by as many as 15 before Durant’s 14-footer with 1:28 to play got the Nets within 109-108.

But Jaylen Brown drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing trip and Al Horford made a basket before Marcus Smart’s free throws gave Boston a 115-109 edge with 13.7 ticks left on the clock.

Durant hit a 3-ball with 3.4 seconds remaining, but that was as close as Brooklyn would get en route to its first-round ousting in four straight games after beginning the year with the loftiest of expectations.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” admitted Durant. “They were just a better team.”

Jayson Tatum put up 29 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter, Brown added 22 and Smart had 20 points and 11 assists for the Celtics, who avenged their first-round elimination at the hands of Brooklyn a season ago.

Seth Curry scored 23 points and Kyrie Irving added 20 for the Nets, who won their last four regular-season games to earn the seventh seed before beating Cleveland in the play-in tournament to nab a spot in this series.

But Boston was more than up to the challenge, pestering Durant into 36 percent shooting while jumping out to a 3-0 series lead. The two-time NBA Finals MVP went 13-for-31 in Game 4, but made just three of his 11 3-point attempts.

Kyrie Irving congratulates Jayson Tatum following the Nets’ loss in Game 4 of the opening round of the playoffs. AP Photo by John Minchillo

Irving, a Celtic for two seasons before signing here in the summer of 2019, had to watch as Boston players celebrated the playoff sweep.

“Disappointment. A little sadness because we didn’t play as well as a team as we wanted to. It’s heavy emotionally,” ceded Irving, who didn’t begin playing Brooklyn home games until last month, when Mayor Eric Adams altered vaccination protocols for private businesses.

Brooklyn had to best record in the East on Jan. 22 before dropping 14 of 17 games as Durant sat with a knee injury.

With Irving out for home games, James Harden became disgruntled with the Nets’ situation, forcing a trade that sent him to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and future draft considerations.

But Simmons, who has been out since last May due to mental health concerns and suffered a herniated disk while ramping back up to play for Brooklyn, never got on the hardwood.

The enigmatic swing man didn’t play a single second for the Nets, who readily admitted before the finale that Simmons was still dealing with mental health concerns as well as his ongoing back issue.

“I think Ben has addressed that there is a mental component with what he’s going through, but how much and where he’s at with that is not for me to speak about,” Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said.

“But as far as an organization, we’re really pushing to support Ben in any way we can to help him improve physically and get back on the court, and then the mental side of that is part and parcel. They’re not separate, they’re not something that we don’t want to deal with. We want to help if he needs help in any aspect of his life and his game.”

More important than Simmons coming back strong, however, is Irving, who can decline his player option and be a free agent this summer.

Ben Simmons didn’t play a single second for Brooklyn after being acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline. AP Photo by John Minchillo

Durant and Irving were brought here to bring this organization its first Larry O’Brien trophy.

Instead, the Nets have yet to reach a conference final with their superstar tandem despite being tabbed as heavy favorites to reach the NBA Finals the past two seasons.

“We don’t have to look back,” insisted Irving.

Looking ahead, the Nets are still on the clock to deliver our borough’s first major pro sports championship since those Dodgers finally beat the hated Yankees in 1955.

“Obviously, when you lose in the playoffs, you look forward to next year,” said Durant.

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