This tumultuously shortened NBA season has been a roller coaster ride for Brooklyn Nets fans. From Kyrie Irving being hurt for a good portion of the year, to Brooklyn moving on from head coach Kenny Atkinson, the Nets have definitely had their fair share of low moments this year. Even Kevin Durant took a big L last night when Derrick Jones Jr. demolished him in the first round of the players-only NBA 2K tournament on ESPN. With all that said, there have been a ton of special moments this year that should have Nets fans excited headed into next season, and I wanted to highlight several of those moments here.
Top 5 Moments of 2019-20 Season for Brooklyn Nets
10/25/19 – Kyrie Irving hits big shot to beat crosstown rival New York Knicks
After dropping 50 points in his Nets debut and losing a heartbreaker to Minnesota, Irving had a chance to redeem himself in just the second game of the season. In a back and forth battle with the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, Kyrie hit the go-ahead three-pointer with just 22 seconds left in regulation over rookie RJ Barrett to put the Nets up by two and help secure the eventual 113 – 109 victory. To many Nets fans, this was Kyrie’s first “welcome to Brooklyn” moment, since beating the Knicks is an important goal every season for Brooklyn, who often plays little brother to the historic Manhattan-based franchise in the headlines.
12/21/19 – Dinwiddie & the Nets beat Atlanta in Brooklyn despite Trae Young’s 47 points with Kobe and Gianna Bryant in attendance
This was a special game for many reasons. Let’s start with the fact that this was one of the last times we were able to see Kobe and Gianna at a public sporting event together and spawned the popular video of the two breaking down the game together. The 2nd major story-line was that this was most likely Vince Carter’s last appearance against the Nets in Brooklyn, a player who provided many highlights and stellar play for Nets fans during his tenure in New Jersey earlier in his career.
And last but not least, the game itself was incredible! The Nets came back from 13 down headed into the 4th quarter to win in a tightly-contested battle, despite a 47 point effort from Trae Young. Dinwiddie played one of his best games of the season, dropping 39 points in their 122 – 112 win. Spencer had extra motivation that night, mentioning that before the game, Bryant, who was Dinwiddie’s favorite player of all time, had told him he was “playing like an all-star.” In the post-game interview, Dinwiddie spoke about how special the win was in front of Kobe and even joked about how he was mad at himself for not getting to 40.
1/31/20 – Kyrie drops 54 on Bulls in Nets Win following the tragic death of his friend/mentor Kobe Bryant
We all process grief and mourn differently. When news circulated regarding the shocking death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, Kyrie Irving chose to take some time off from basketball, a decision completely understandable given the relationship between the two. Kyrie viewed Kobe as a mentor; Kobe was actually the first person Irving called after he won his NBA championship in 2016 with Cleveland. When Kyrie decided he was ready to come back and play, he put what Bryant had taught him to good use.
The Nets point guard was electric in his return against the Bulls, scoring 54 points on 19-23 shooting in a convincing 133 – 118 win. He even received MVP chants from the crowd at Barclays. After the game, Kyrie spoke on how he was able to play through the grieving process: “It’s an open wound. But I think just coming out here knowing that this is a place where we connected on a deeper scale, it makes a lot of sense, what’s happening.” ESPN Game Recap by Associated Press
3/11/20 – Dinwiddie and the Nets shock Lakers in the final game of the shortened season
Coming off a three-game home stretch in which they went 2-1 against lesser competition, critics did not expect much from the Nets on the road against a Lakers team at full strength, especially with an interim coach in Jacque Vaughn still figuring out his rotations. In what would turn out to be the final game of Brooklyn’s shortened season, the Nets delivered with one of their best team wins in recent memory.
The momentum in the game went back and forth the entire night, with the Nets winning the 2nd and 3rd quarters to build a substantial lead heading into the 4th. Being the elite superstars that they are, Lebron and AD stormed their way back into the game, tieing Brooklyn down the stretch at 102. Spencer Dinwiddie, who had 23 on the night, hit the go-ahead jumper over Avery Bradley with 28.3 seconds to put the Nets up by two. Anthony Davis had a chance to win the game for the Lakers with a wide-open look from three, but he clanked the shot off the back of the rim, and the Nets were able to hold on for a 104 – 102 victory. LeVert added 22 points of his own and finished the shortened season on a high note, playing the best basketball of his young career. Moving forward, LeVert will either be the 3rd star on this Brooklyn Nets team next year, or he will be a valuable trade asset for Sean Marks in the off-season.
Caris LeVert goes off against the Celtics for 51 points in Overtime Win
With the Celtics up double digits in the 4th and as much as 21 points in the second half, Nets fans (myself included) were ready to chalk this game up as a loss. The team had been defeated in their last four games, and Atkinson had most of his bench players on the court, basically surrendering the game, before subbing Caris LeVert into the game in the 4th. And then something magical happened.
Levert turned into a scoring machine in the 4th quarter, pouring in 26 points, including nailing all three free throws (after Marcus Smart had fouled him attempting a three) to tie the game up with .02 seconds left and complete their comeback in regulation. In overtime, the former Michigan Wolverine would go on to score all 11 points for the Nets to close out a 129 – 120 win, and LeVert finished the game with a career-high 51 points on 17 of 26 from the field. The Celtics had zero answers on defense, as LeVert torched the Celtics possession after possession by scoring in a variety of ways. Three-point shot off the dribble? Money. One-footed step back from the elbow? Cash. Finishing at the basket with contact? You betcha. LeVert single-handedly won a game that easily should have been a loss for the Brooklyn Nets.
The lesson here? No matter how much you’re down in the fight, don’t give up – there’s always a chance.
BONUS MOMENT: All 4 Nets players diagnosed with Coronavirus in mid-March, including Kevin Durant, are now all symptom-free after self-isolating for the last 14 days. While they will continue to quarantine themselves, this is the best possible news we can receive regarding the health of these players.
Stay tuned for the date of the tournament to be announced. Follow @firesidenets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your latest Brooklyn Nets news and listen to the Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick podcast!