This inaugural season for the Nets in Brooklyn has certainly had its share of ups and downs, but through it all, at least one thing is certain. This season is going to end with playoff games having been contested at Barclays Center.
The Nets clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2007 late Thursday evening thanks to the Philadelphia 76ers (26-42) losing at the Denver Nuggets, 102-101. The Sixers, in a distant ninth-place in the Eastern Conference, can now finish no better than 40-42. Hypothetically, if the Nets were to lose their final 14 games, they would also finish 40-42. In that case, tiebreakers would come in to play and with the Nets are already assured of having a better record against division opponents (second tiebreaker), the Nets are playoff-bound.
With a brand new $330 million roster, simply qualifying for the playoffs has never been the goal, nor should it be, but it's a nice start given what has gone on this season. The Nets got out of the gate slow, fired Avery Johnson and handed the keys to now-interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, whose 26-14 marks ranks as the best 40-game start for a head coach in franchise history.
All the while, the Nets have dealt with injuries, losing streaks and even borderline ineptitude at some points from a roster that far more was expected of. Some of those ups and downs remain, but at least there is something to look forward to come spring besides preparing for the NBA Draft Lottery.
As it stands right now, the Nets' 40-28 mark is good enough to put them one game behind the Knicks for first-place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference, three games ahead of the fifth-place Atlanta Hawks. The three division winners and the team with the next-best record will earn the top four seeds and accompanying home court advantage.
For most of the season, the Nets have downplayed their desire to win the franchise's first division title since 2006, but it cannot be denied that doing so would be a major shot in the arm for the franchise in its first season in Brooklyn. In their effort to win the division, the Nets will need to hold steady on this current eight-game, 17-day, four-time zone road trip, which is off to a 2-0 start following an impressive 113-96 decision over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday evening.
Games at the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers are still to come before the Nets finally return home on April 4 to face the Chicago Bulls.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA