If the Nets make the playoffs, they’ll look back at Tuesday’s 123-121 miracle win over the Kings as the result that got them there.
Here’s how improbable the rally was:
The Nets allowed the Kings a 20-0 run to start the second half, trailed by as many as 28 points late in the third quarter, and were still down by 25 to start the fourth.
But they refused to lose. D’Angelo Russell wouldn’t let them, pouring in a career-high 44 points. And after Rondae Hollis-Jefferson helped force a huge Kings turnover with five seconds remaining and the score tied, Hollis-Jefferson drove for the game-winning layup on the other end with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.
When Buddy Hield missed a heave at the buzzer, the Nets stormed off the bench and celebrated like college kids. And who could blame them? After overcoming the biggest deficit in team history?
In a game the Nets absolutely had to win, they did just that in the most stunning fashion before a sellout crowd of 17,583 at Golden 1 Center.
Russell had the most points by any Net since the franchise relocated to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season. He had 27 points in the fourth quarter alone.
“I think at this point in the season, we all know what’s at stake, we all know the schedule, we all know where we are in the standings,” coach Kenny Atkinson said before the game. “I do rely on their professionalism. I think they understand what they need to do. At this point in the season, I don’t think a rah-rah speech.
“Now, we do continue on the same way in terms of watching film or walk-throughs or shoot-arounds or whatever we do to continue to improve for the next game. We don’t make a bigger deal out of one game than another, like saying, ‘Hey, we have to get this game.’ We’ve got to keep getting better to get some wins.”
They got a stellar one to move 1 ½ games ahead of the Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re now three clear of the ninth-place Magic.
The Nets (37-36), who are facing the toughest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way, were playing a Kings team that has now dropped eight of its last 11. But it was tooth-and-nail.
The Nets fell behind 41-25 on Bogdan Bogdanovic’s corner 3-pointer so wide-open that it prompted an angry Atkinson to call a timeout just 20 seconds — and one possession — into the second quarter. The Nets managed to cut the deficit to eight by the end of the first half. But they flushed that work down the toilet by conceding a 20-0 run to open the second.