Exhaustion had replaced elation by the time the Nets took the field for Monday’s fait accompli playoff game against the surging Boston Celtics.
The early-season excitement surrounding the Nets and their glittering roster faded in a season of whims against the Murphy’s Law adage that anything that can go wrong usually will.
Gone, too, are the crowded rows of famous New York spectators, like Mary J. Blige, Spike Lee and Aaron Judge, who watched Game 3 at Barclays Center, perhaps confident – despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary – that a Quick victory Monday would propel the Nets into the series.
Not even Ben Simmons, who stood out earlier in the series because of his kaleidoscope outfits, was there.
Nets fans who attended Monday’s game seemed subdued, perhaps exhausted from a season like many others due to the multitude of off-field distractions. Celtics fans, who saw their team undergo the mid-season revitalization Brooklynites expected from the Nets, arrived ready to pour salt into festering wounds.
Boston — too consistent, too long, too tenacious — simply slammed the door on a Nets season that went off the rails from the start.
Kyrie Irving has missed most of the season because he refused to get a coronavirus shot. Kevin Durant, hampered by a knee injury, missed more than a month.
The Nets went down with an 11-game losing streak. James Harden forced a trade to Philadelphia that returned, among others, Simmons – the centerpiece of the deal that never took court.
Often alone to take charge throughout the season, Durant. During the playoffs, he had his best performance of the series on Monday with 39 points.
But Jayson Tatum’s two-way performance throughout the series neutralized Durant. Boston fans serenaded Tatum with chants of “MVP” in Brooklyn before he fouled out on Monday with 2 minutes 48 seconds left and the Celtics leading by 6 points. Their final lead was just 4 points – just enough for the win. And too much for the Nets.
Irving is now in line for a contract extension. Most of the Nets’ veteran rotation players are scheduled for free agency. No one knows when the injured Simmons will play. But the story of this season may not be so much how it ended, but rather whether the Nets stars have had enough to find a way to start over.