Staring down elimination, Nets have to ‘just come out and play’ vs. Celtics

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) sits on the baseline during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

It’s not uncommon at one point or another during a Nets game at Barclays Center to hear “Where Brooklyn At?!” over the PA system. An homage to one of Brooklyn’s most famous residents, the phrase could take on a much deeper meaning for the NBA team that calls the borough home.

After three games against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, the Nets find their season on the brink. They trail 0-3 in the series, have not had an answer to stopping the Celtics’ deep and talented lineup, their two superstars have not been able to take over games, and the Nets have looked out of sorts for most of the series.

[READ: Blake Griffin provides spark in Nets Game 3 loss to Celtics]

And to top it all off, it would literally take the Nets to make NBA history to overcome the hole they face right now. That’s not hyperbole or an attempt at an impression of Rob Lowe’s character from Parks and Rec,  either.

No NBA team has ever managed to come back to take a series after falling behind 0-3 and just three teams in league history have ever even tied a series after finding themselves where the Nets are now.

The 2021-22 season has not been what anyone in Kings County had expected, even when the Nets didn’t have Kyrie Irving for a quarter of the season and then played nearly the rest of it with him limited to the road games because of his unvaccinated status. But a first-round exit and potential sweep is another level, even for this year.

“Obviously nobody is even remotely happy or content,” Blake Griffin said after Saturday’s loss. “We’re all frustrated.  But, especially us guys that have played in the playoffs for a long time know that a series is far from over. We get one more game at home and we need to do a good job of coming out ready to play from the beginning. Teams like this you have to put a full  48 together. It can’t be 40. It can’t be 44.

“It has to be a full 48. I think our energy needs to be good tomorrow and Monday in shootaround, and transfer that into the game Monday night.”

The series may not be over, but it certainly feels like Saturday night was a blow the Nets won’t be able to get up from. Brooklyn has never been able to sustain the type of game they want to play or what made them successful at times during the regular season.

They’ve also made a number of mistakes that have cost them, in particular their turnovers. On Saturday, for instance, the Nets turned over the ball 21 times for 37 points, with Durant accounting for five of them. It’s uncharacteristic instances like that which reared its head during the regular season as well and now have played a major part in the postseason.

“Man, we know what it is. I don’t think no speech or anything is going to do (anything) at this point in the year. We know what it is. We’ve got another game on Monday. Just come out and play,” said Kevin Durant, who has struggled throughout the series which has also played a big role in where things are for the Nets.

Kyrie Irving had a similar message.

“Not much to say,” Irving said. “We know what it is. People in this locker room have been in this situation on the winning side or losing side. You’ve got to take lessons, learn what you can from this and get ready for Monday. No time to hold your head. No time to think about what everyone else is saying. Just go play basketball.”

However, even with that mindset, the Nets just don’t seem to have an answer for how to turn the tide of this series and stave off elimination. What made it sting a bit more was the postgame observation that Griffin had about his team’s spirit.

[Complete First Round Coverage of Celtics-Nets Series]

He indicated that his team just didn’t have the “right spirit” throughout the game which prevented them from weathering the storm when Boston pushed back.

“Teams go on runs and it’s a game of runs, but we have the firepower,” he said.  “We have the talent to withstand runs and also make runs ourselves. When other teams make runs we need to do a better job of weathering it and keep going and not let it affect us.”

The Nets will have to take a long hard look in the mirror at some point once the offseason comes. If they can’t manage to battle back in this series, the phrase “where Brooklyn at” will have a much different meaning.