Flash forward to 2014. Now the duo is in a totally different situation. They are two veterans placed on a very expensive team aspiring to a championship; a team that dwells right in the heart of New York City’s most eccentric borough: Brooklyn, N.Y. Summarizing his goal as “Championship or bust,” owner Mikhail Prokhorov brought in Garnett and Pierce to revive the attitude of the prideful borough and its oddly complacent team.
But the supposedly prideful borough hasn’t shown up. While the Nets have emerged from their 10-21 start to the season to have one of the best records in the NBA in 2014, the Nets’ fans have failed to emerge. They continue to support their team’s play as mildly as mild gets. Simply put, they are “vanilla,” as Jason Kidd used to describe the Nets last season.
This season the Nets are far from vanilla. They play with a chip on their shoulder and a Celtic-like toughness, shown in their “no layup” policy that was implemented as early as preseason. The aspiring and prideful play has actually led to a dominant home record this season. They are 28-13 at home and even had a team-record, 15-game home winning streak.
However, it’s easy to play well at home during the regular season despite having just a decent crowd. It is nearly impossible to play as well in the playoffs. We’re seeing this now in the Brooklyn-Toronto series. When Toronto opened Game 1 on their floor on April 19, the roof practically fell off. It was an insane, sell-out crowd, one that carried outside of the Air Canada Centre in the boisterous thousands. The crowd even got welcomed by Raptor GM Masai Ujiri who yelled, “Expletive Brooklyn!” to pump up the already riotous fans.
Meanwhile, the fans were golf clapping in the Barclays Center. The pre-game crowd in Brooklyn was nonexistent and even rushed late out of the subway to make the early 7 p.m. Game 2 tip-off. In the arena, there were no constant chants of defense, and the crowd got involved only when the Nets produced big plays like blocks or and 1’s. In the playoffs, the home team cannot afford to only feed off of spurts of energy from the crowd. The Brooklyn fans need to be like the Toronto fans: rambunctious from the get-go.
In the two games Brooklyn has played at home, the players haven’t looked like themselves. They look like the same ball club that played in Toronto. Now they have managed to squeeze out two close wins, with one on the road, but even the players are admitting that they aren’t playing their best ball. They’ve lost home court advantage with Sunday’s Game 4 loss, so they must beat the Raptors in a hostile environment in Game 5. Then they can potentially close out the Raptors at home in Game 6 and avoid an unruly Game 7 in Toronto. If they lose that sixth game, and the fans do not offer the Nets something close to that TD Garden playoff atmosphere that Garnett has been clamoring for lately, then we will surely be asking, “Where Brooklyn at?”