You don’t mess with the Bojan!
The Nets’ rookie forward brought the Nets back from the brink of elimination, giving Brooklyn a career game to help spark a big fourth quarter and eventually get them to the postseason.
Bogdanovic scored a career-high 28 points (12-for-17 from the field, 4-of-8 from deep), grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists.
What we’ve learned in season one from Bogdanvoic is that he has the capability to take over a game when he has his shot, and that’s something that can make or break the Nets come playoff time. Bojan can effectively spot up and drive through the lane, which gives the Nets a lot of flexibility on offense. If Lionel Hollins can find a way to push the right buttons and get Bogdanovic the match ups that will favor him off the bench in the playoffs, he could be a very dangerous variable that the Hawks will have to game plan for.
Show of hands: who thought we’d be here right now? If you have your hand in the air, odds are you’re lying. After a season of more downs than ups, the Nets used the futility of the rest of the Eastern Conference to their advantage, en route to their third consecutive playoff appearance. Their reward? A match up with one of the best teams in basketball.
Only two clubs won 60 games or more this season, and the Atlanta Hawks — the Nets’ first round opponent — are one of them. Atlanta outscored the Nets by an average of 114-97 in their four meetings this season. But there’s something comforting about this series. No one expects the Nets to be competitive. That, combined with a roster of veterans who have been to the playoffs before and are more likely to have an even keel than some of Atlanta’s younger stars, could having the makings of a perfect storm. Yes, Brooklyn probably will lose in four or five games, but…maybe they won’t?
“We’ve all seen thing strange things happen in the playoffs because it’s different than the regular season,’’ Jarrett Jack told reporters after the game. “It comes down to match ups and who’s playing well and who has momentum. When you get into the playoffs like we did, that’s a lot of momentum right there.’’
Maybe Jack is right. I mean, this has been a weird enough season that I really wouldn’t be shocked by anything at this point. Had you told me the eight seed would make the playoffs at six games under .500, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I definitely wouldn’t have bit on the fall and rise of Brook Lopez. Even the way the Nets were able to piecemeal this playoff berth together seemed to have more twists and turns than a midday soap opera. Knocking off the Hawks would be the last thing anyone would expect, which might make it the most likely scenario to play out.
“Last time, we played them pretty good,” Thaddeus Young said of the team’s three point loss in their final meeting of the year with Atlanta. “We went down to the wire. If we could play them the way we played them last time, just moving the ball, giving them a taste of their own medicine, when we’re just moving, driving, kicking, the ball starts sticking to everybody’s hands, we’re just executing, I think we’ll be fine in the series.”
Even if the Nets lay an egg and get swept out of the first round, who cares? It’s a gift the team has gotten this far. There’s absolutely nothing to lose, and that potentially makes Brooklyn a very dangerous team.
Recap: The Nets rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to keep their postseason hopes alive, then Indiana lost at Memphis to put Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference playoffs against Atlanta in the first round.
Need to know: Bojan Bogdanovic led the Nets with 28 points on 12-for-17 shooting, including 4-for-8 from three.
Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young added 16 points for the Nets, who outscored the Magic 26-13 in the fourth quarter.
The Nets trailed 28-23 after the first quarter. After rallying to take a 36-32 lead, they went to the locker room trailing 52-48. Brooklyn fell behind 65-53 in the third — drawing boos from Barclays Center fans — before mounting the comeback to tie it at 75 entering the fourth.
Nikola Vucevic had 26 points for the Magic, including 14 on 7-for-9 shooting in the first half. . . Orlando was 5-for-13 at the free-throw line.
Bogdanovic had 13 first-half points for Brooklyn . . Young was 1-for-6 at the free-throw line in the first half, 5-for-6 in the second.
Deron Williams (10 points, seven assists) was 1-for-7, 0-for-4 from three in the first half.
Links: AP recap | Box Score
What’s Next: The Nets meet the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. Game 1 is Sunday in Atlanta (5:30 p.m.).
The Nets welcome the Orlando Magic to Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. on YES 2 and WCBS.
Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez, Markel Brown and Deron Williams are expected to start.
The Nets can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win against the Magic and a loss by the Indiana Pacers, who play on the road at Memphis Grizzlies (9:30 p.m. EDT).
1/2/15: In the Nets’ victory over Orlando, Brook Lopez totaled 16 points (7-8 FGs), eight rebounds and three blocks in 18 minutes off the bench. Lopez became the first Nets reserve in exactly 13 years to record 16+ points, eight or more rebounds and three or more blocks in a game (Aaron Williams tallied 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks on 1/2/02 against the Grizzlies).
Basketball operations aren’t the only place where the Nets are struggling. The business side of the team has taken hits as well, and the latest defeat comes from the NBA’s most recent merchandise update.
The team fell out of the top 10 in team apparel sales for the first time since moving to Brooklyn.
The Chicago Bull topped the list. The crosstown rival Knicks checked in at seventh.
This is just a re-enforcement of what many of us knew to be the case: The Nets fan base just isn’t that big. Case and point: Even after a putrid season, the Knicks are still in the top 10.
Brooklyn sold a lot of gear to the casual fan, but that was a novelty. People were interested in the re-brand, the new stars and the prospect of Brooklyn basketball. Now that the luster has worn off, they have to rely on the two primary drivers that move merch: fan loyalty and on-court performance. While there are die hard Nets fans out there, they’re far fewer and further between than most of the teams in the league. The only way you win those casual fans over and sell them your products (outside of a re-brand) is to develop a consistent winner. Unfortunately, they may be far away from achieving that.