The Nets appear destined for a fourth-place finish in the East, a first-round matchup against either the Hawks or the Bulls, and, if all goes well, a second-round against the formidable Heat. Don’t give up hope yet — the Nets have a chance of making it past Miami.
My shorter counterpart will lead you to believe that Brooklyn should do anything possible to delay a series against the Heat, but what’s the sense in delaying the inevitable?
We’ve seen bad teams tank before to jockey for better position in the draft lottery, but never good teams tanking to potentially avoid a team in the second round of the playoffs.
All teams in the Eastern Conference know the road to the NBA Finals goes through the reigning NBA champions, but after that, it’s anyone’s game.
With the exception of Miami, no team in the East is markedly better than any other squad — meaning that if Brooklyn, or whoever the Heat face in the first round, can pull off the improbable, the road to the Finals is open for the taking.
That’s where homecourt advantage comes in.
The Nets are not a particularly strong road team. With a passable road record of 20–17, the Nets shouldn’t feel overly confident of even making it to the second round if the team chooses to tank in its last few games.
Brooklyn’s combined road record against Chicago and Atlanta: 1–3.
Deron Williams understands what the Nets need to do.
“We’ve got to win. We’ve got to win out,” Deron Williams told Newsday, “I think that’s how we’ve got to think. It might not happen, but it could happen. We get hot at the right time and get going.”
And that’s the attitude the Nets should have. This Brooklyn squad must focus on winning enough games to earn the right to play its first playoff game — and potentially its first Game 7 — in the friendly confines of the Barclays Center.
Then the borough’s ballers can take their talents to South Beach, where, no doubt, the Heat will be waiting.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports-world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.