The Nets had a wild ride to the playoffs

The Nets ended the regular season on Wednesday night the way it began, with a loss in Cleveland to the Cavaliers. 114-85. The Nets are the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will take on the Atlantic Division champions and third seed Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.

Since this was the last regular season game of the season, Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd rested his starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Shaun Livingston. Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic, whose wife is having a baby, also did not play.

The Nets’ starting five for this one was Andray Blatche, Jason Collins, Marcus Thornton, Jorge Gutierrez, and Marquis Teague. Blatche and Thornton had nice outings, with each scoring 20 points.

The Cavaliers played their full lineup, and took a 33-21 after the first quarter. The Nets went on a run and pulled to within 37-36 on a Thornton three-pointer with 7:52 left in the second quarter, and took a 41-40 lead on another Thornton three with 5:05 left before halftime. Blatche had eight points in the final five minutes of the second, and he hit two free throws to make it 51-49 Cavs heading into halftime. Cleveland outscored the Nets 30-15 in the third quarter and 63-36 in the second half to walk away with the win.

The Nets finish the regular season at 44-38, and it was quite a wild ride to get there.

The Nets opened the season with a tough loss in Cleveland, 98-94, on Wednesday, October 30th. Two nights later, they won the home opener over the Miami Heat 101-100 in a game they led wire-to-wire. They had trouble beating young, fast teams throughout November, with losses to Orlando, Washington, Sacramento, Portland, Charlotte, and Minnesota.

An early low point came on November 27th when the Nets were playing the Lakers at Barclays Center. They fell behind by 27 points early on, but battled back and were within striking distance at the end. With no timeouts, Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd bumped into Tyshawn Taylor to spill a soda onto the court and steal a timeout. For this, he was fined $50,000 by the NBA the next day. The Nets went on to lose the game, 99-94. Two nights later, the Nets did not show up and were humiliated in Houston by the Rockets, 114-95. They beat Memphis the next night to close November at 5-12.

On December 3rd, something very surprising happened, as lead assistant coach Lawrence Frank was dismissed by Kidd. They had battled since early in the season, so Frank was officially reassigned to a form of a consultant that would write game reports. That night, the Nets lost to the Denver Nuggets 111-87. Two nights later, they were blown out by the Knicks 113-83.

The Nets muddled through the rest of December, and it looked bleak when Brook Lopez hurt his right foot in a bitter loss in Philadelphia on December 20th, and was ruled out for the rest of the season the next day. The low points came on Christmas Day, when the Bulls demolished them 95-78 at Barclays Center, followed by a New Year’s Eve blowout in San Antonio, 113-92 that left them at 10-21.

In the 2012-13 season, the Nets were also blown out on December 31st by San Antonio and followed it up with a win in Oklahoma City two nights later. History repeated itself, as a Joe Johnson buzzer beater sealed the upset win over Oklahoma City on January 2nd. This started a five-game winning streak, with home wins over Cleveland, Atlanta, Golden State, and Miami, which was a double-overtime win on January 10th.

They beat the Hawks in London on January 16th, and four days later blew out the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. They had a big win against the Dallas Mavericks on January 24th, followed by an emotional win in Boston two nights later in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett’s return. They went 10-3 in January, enough to earn Jason Kidd Coach of the Month honors. Kidd earned it as he shifted Garnett to center and moved Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup with fellow guards Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, and Paul Pierce moving into the power forward role.

The highlight of the month February was the signing of Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the four  major American sports. The Nets signed him on February 23rd ahead of a win over the Lakers in Los Angeles, 108-102. The win was part of the Nets’ annual Circus Road Trip, which they went 4-3 on. Also in February, General Manager Billy King made the trade of the year, when he sent Jason Terry and fan favorite Reggie Evans to the Sacramento Kings for Marcus Thornton.

The Nets finally reached the .500 mark with a big win over the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center on March 3rd that brought their record to 29-29. A week later, they had big wins over the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center on March 10th, and the Miami Heat on the road two nights later, 96-95. The Nets went 12-4 in March, earning Kidd a second Coach of the Month award. The most remarkable part about the month was that they did it with Mason Plumlee in the starting lineup at center in place of Kevin Garnett, who was out due to back spasms. They ended March with a record of 39-33.

The Nets opened April with a big win over the Houston Rockets, who were without Dwight Howard, on the 1st at Barclays Center that clinched a playoff spot. The next night, the then-surging New York Knicks blew out the Nets at The Garden, denting their hopes for a division title.

The Nets made a big statement on April 8th in Miami when they beat the Heat 88-87, their third one-point win over the defending champs, and completed a regular-season 4-0 sweep. The game ended with a Mason Plumlee block of LeBron James in the closing seconds.  The Nets went 5-5 in April to finish with the 44-38 mark, as rest took precedent over winning games. Their record after January 1st was an amazing 34-17.

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