After mortgaging the future of the basketball franchise in order to win in the present, the Brooklyn Nets, owners of the highest team payroll in the NBA this year, no doubt envisioned this season lasting a little bit longer than it actually did. But the Eastern Conference Semifinals are as far as the team that relied mostly on a roster with a few creaky old veterans will get this year after suffering a heartbreaking 96-94 loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday night. The loss raises the question of where, if anywhere, the Nets will be able to go from here, considering the age of some of their most important players and their incredibly unfavorable salary cap situation.
For much of the game, it looked like the Nets would stave off elimination for the third consecutive time in the postseason as they held a nine-point lead as late as 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter. Holding the advantage was a position the Nets had grown accustomed to in the contest since they had not trailed the Heat since the final couple of minutes of the second quarter. But the Heat proved to be relentless and although the Nets had held the Heat offense in check for the majority of the game, the fourth quarter performance of the Heat proved to be too much for the Nets as they were drowned under a barrage of three-pointers that fueled the Heat comeback.
In all, the Heat dropped six three-pointers on the Nets in the fourth quarter, with none more dramatic than Ray Allen's three-pointer with 32 seconds left in the contest that gave the Heat a 93-91 edge and their first lead since the aforementioned one in the second quarter. Those six three-pointers comprised two-thirds of the nine three-pointers the Heat connected on in the entire contest and were the main reason why the Heat totaled 30 points in the final quarter, their highest-scoring output in any quarter on Wednesday.
The Heat comeback was not all offense-driven, though, and the victory was sealed by the Heat coming up with crucially important defensive stops in the fourth quarter. Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson had put on a display of spectacular shooting, throughout the contest, but with the chance to at least tie the game and send it into overtime, Johnson was stripped by a combination of Ray Allen and LeBron James, thus ending the Nets' season. However, without Johnson, who made 15 of his 23 field goal attempts while characteristically attempting only one free throw, the Nets would never have been in a position to steal a victory on the road in the first place.
The Nets were really never a championship-caliber squad since the year is 2014 and not 2010 or 2011 when most of the Nets players were having their best seasons so they cannot really be disappointed with how their season ended. They made it about as far as their talent level would suggest they would and managed to salvage a season that for the start of the season looked like an unmitigated disaster. Unfortunately for the Nets, even if they were not qualified or efficient enough to win the championship this year, this was still the best shot for the team to get a ring. And that is the most disheartening part of it all for the Nets. Their best chance was simply not good enough to compete against the likes of the Miami Heat.