Nets, season unravel in ClevelandTragic number down to one after terrible loss
Nineteen times in the final 11:30, a Net player attempted some form of a shot, be it a jumper, three-pointer, layup or dunk. And 19 times it drew iron, the front of a Cavaliers' hand or nothing but air.
They can talk about the contact on some of their drives all they want, and in some cases it was legit and they didn't get a call, but the bottom line is they misfired on their final 19 shot attempts. They hit just 1 of 20 shots in the fourth and one of their final 24 of the night.
Not surprisingly, the Nets were shellacked 104-83 in a game they absolutely had to win to keep whatever chances they had of sniffing the postseason alive.
It comes down to this now: one Nets' loss or one Atlanta win and some member of the organization will take the five-mile ride from East Rutherford to Secaucus for the Lottery. They better start drawing straws.
This was a monumental collapse, indicative of the Nets' season. They were up 14 with 6:44 left in the third and outscored 51-16 the rest of the way.
In the fourth, Bostjan Nachbar canned a three with 11:31 left. It was their only make.
Devin Harris, have you even been a part of anything like that period?
"No," the former Maverick said. "It was a tough, tough stretch when the shots weren't falling. [We had] a couple of no calls. That's the way it goes sometimes. It was a tough fourth quarter for us."
What's lost in the defeat was how hard the Nets played. This wasn't Detroit last week when they didn't show up on either end without Vince Carter. They were aggressive, attacking, primed to shut up people like me who keep throwing dirt on them. The Nets were seemingly in control of the game.
They had the Cleveland fans on their hands early in the third period, almost stunned that a team that was 13 games under .500 would be up that big with LeBron James in the lineup.
But it all fell apart, unraveled quickly, just like the Nets' season. Now four games remain. Mercifully, just four are left in a season that started with high hopes and is destined for utter failure. That's how this game wound up for the Nets.
"It was tough," Carter said. "But I liked everyone's aggressiveness, trying to get to the basket and get to the free throw line. We weren't hitting shots, so we were trying to get to the basket.
"But it's tough. You're not making shots, and not making layups, and some of the calls we weren't getting. That's a triple threat negative triple threat."
That's the Nets' season. Only the negative triple-threat has been they weren't good offensively, weren't good defensively and many games they should have gotten they didn't. This one fits that negative triple threat.
Some more dirt, please.
MONDAY, April 7: Posted at 4:46 p.m. ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Vince Carter thought he would be watching North Carolina in the championship game tonight. He also thought his pro team's season wouldn't be winding down right now.
There were a lot of people wrong about both. The Nets, however, are the bigger surprise. Some fools I'm referring to myself here predicted the Nets would go 46-36. So I had it in reverse.
Their season is not over. Five games remain and there are two ways it can extend: if the Nets go 5-0 and Atlanta goes 1-4 or if the Nets go 4-1 and Atlanta goes 0-5.
So theoretically, these are meaningful games for the Nets, but they mean nothing if they don't win. And coach Lawrence Frank admitted on Monday they basically have to win out.
"Well, I would say that, yeah," Frank said. "We've just got to focus in on our next game. We've got to focus in on Cleveland. Just take it one at a time. You never know what can happen. But the only chance you give yourself is by winning games. If you don't win your games, a lot of that stuff doesn't come into play."
Here's the Nets' remaining schedule: at Cleveland, at Toronto, at Milwaukee, Charlotte, at Boston. Here's Atlanta's remaining schedule: at Indiana, at New York, Boston, Orlando, at Miami.
The schedule favors Atlanta. Plus the road hasn't been kind to the Nets.
They've won just once on the road in their last 12 contests and that game was against the Knicks. Richard Jefferson said that doesn't count because it's the Knicks.
The first game is going to be the toughest. The Nets have won all three games against Cleveland this season. LeBron James doesn't want to go 0-4 against the Nets. Also, Cleveland has dropped its last two home games. So you know they'll be ready.
That said, the Nets could be eliminated from the playoffs by Wednesday night. No one is saying it, but they know the reality of the situation. The Nets need a monumental collapse and a sudden rising to make it.
Since the Nets don't play until Wednesday, Monday was a somewhat of off-day. Frank had an optional practice, yet most of the players showed up at some point. At the end of it, Carter showed up. He was there to get treatment on his ankle, but also wanted to get some shots up.
A lot has been written and said about the leadership and determination Carter is showing to play right now on an ankle that may require surgery. He has stated he wants to finish the season on the court even if the Nets are eliminated, that it would be good for young guys like Sean Williams and Marcus Williams to see.
Bostjan Nachbar is another player who is giving up his body right now. His back is bothering him, but he continues to play through the pain.
"Nachbar deserves a lot of credit," Frank said. "It would be very easy to take some time off. He's in a lot of pain, but similar to Vince, he's very determined to want to finish it out."
The end is near. For all intents and purposes it could be over by Wednesday night, unless there is a monumental collapse and a sudden Nets' rising.
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