The Nets came into this contest on a four-game winning streak and with a record of 21-43. The excitement over Deron Williams was peaking and the future of the organization was looking brighter and brighter as the days went on. However, the Celtics came in at 47-17 and were 2nd in the Eastern Conference at the time. The big four was healthy and ready to pounce on a team that it had picked on for years and years.
No one really thought that the Nets were going to take this game.
Brook Lopez scored his generic 20 points. Anthony Morrow scored 15. Kris Humphries had 16 points, 15 rebounds, as The Incredible Hump (okay, it’s a bad nickname) actually outplayed Kevin Garnett. KG actually had some nice words for the Nets after the game: “We knew they’ve been playing well lately, playing with a lot more energy,” Garnett said. “D-Will, he’s come over here and gave them sort of like a winning mentality, seems to be working for them. Kris is playing really well for them, Brook is playing really well. They have players that are playing really well, just they’re trying to put it together it seems like.”
Even Travis Outlaw scored 12 points. It doesn’t get much better than that.
This game wasn’t about them, though. Nets fans were all waiting for Deron Williams’ “hero moment,” and they got it on this night. The fourth quarter was just euphoric. The Nets took a 74-62 lead on a Travis Outlaw three. Allow that to sink in for a second. Travis Outlaw… three. The Celtics then made the run that everybody knew would happen, as they cut the lead to 2 with 1:30 remaining.
I fully expected the Nets to lose at this point. The Celtics were on a tear on both ends of the court as the Nets Cinderella game was finally going to drift back into reality. However, the Celtics never scored again. Brook Lopez scored to make it 83-79 before D-Will hit the biggest shot of the year: a step-back three with 35.6 seconds remaining to put the Nets up 86-79. This buried the Celtics, and extended the Nets’ win streak to five. Instantly, the word “playoffs” was on the tongue of players and fans alike.
However, what impressed me most wasn’t Williams or Humphries, or the kid in the pink shirt. It was the ability of the team to work as an effective unit and overcome all kinds of adversity to win in the end. Despite the moniker “sell out” getting thrown on this one, most of the fans in the stadium were dressed in green. On top of that, the Celtics took a 14-0 run in the first quarter and led 23-14 at the end of one. It looked like another blowout loss for the Nets. I don’t think that anyone watching would’ve predicted what happened next. The Nets made their own run and outscored the Celtics 22-15 in the second as they trailed 38-36 at halftime. New Jersey then took a step forward and actually had a six point advantage at the end of three quarters, which allowed me to think, “Woah, the Nets might actually win this one.”
Of course, the rest is history. The Nets lost 15 of 17 to end the season as another losing, non-playoff season was in the books. But we’ll always have this game: the most memorable of the 10-11 season and hopefully a turning point for this franchise.