After years of misery, Nets clinch an improbable playoff berth

Jack BaerYahoo Sports Contributor

It was a long, painful road for the Brooklyn Nets and their fans, but the team is finally, improbably back in the NBA playoffs.

With a 108-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, the 41-40 Nets clinched their first playoff berth since the 2014-15 season. It remains to be seen whether the team will get the sixth or seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the good news is already here for Brooklyn.

After spending years in NBA purgatory thanks to a bad mixture of lack of star talent and the inability to develop any thanks to a catastrophic trade with the Boston Celtics in 2013, the Nets have a young core again and a way forward.

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The Brooklyn Nets are back in the NBA playoffs. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
The Brooklyn Nets are back in the NBA playoffs. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Nets overcome odds and injuries to make playoffs

As far as the Nets’ odds to make the playoffs went, both Las Vegas and the numbers didn’t seem to think highly of them entering the season.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook gave the Nets a moneyline of +300 to make the postseason, while FiveThirtyEight had the team at around 30 percent. Those odds likely became even worse when the team’s leading scorer, Caris Levert, went down with a severe leg injury.

The Nets still persevered thanks to the breakout season of D’Angelo Russell, who has found new life since he was traded away from the Los Angeles Lakers to make room at point guard for Lonzo Ball. Russell made his first career All-Star appearance and is now averaging 21.2 points and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field.

Russell didn’t even know the team had just clinched a playoff spot as he stepped in for a postgame interview.

Between Russell, Levert and other players like rookie center Jarrett Allen, it might not be long before the Nets make the playoffs again.

Magic clinch another unexpected playoff berth

Facing even longer odds, at least far as preseason was concerned, were the Orlando Magic at +500 odds with Westgate. The Magic went ahead and clinched their own playoff berth on Sunday, tying the Nets at 41-40 thanks to a powerful frontline in Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon and an excellent coaching job by Steve Clifford.

Now that the Magic and Nets are both in the postseason, the question remains who they’ll be playing.

Where will the Nets and Magic be seeded?

The Nets and Magic are now tied for the sixth-best record in the East at 41-40. With the fifth-place Pacers well ahead of the two teams at 47-34, sixth is the best either team can do.

Each team has one game left on the regular season schedule against teams looking to capture the final playoffs spot from the eighth-place Detroit Pistons, the Nets against the Miami Heat and the Magic against the Charlotte Hornets.

If the Nets and Magic both win, the Nets get the sixth seed thanks to a tiebreaker. If one team wins and one team loses, the winner gets the sixth seed. If both teams lose, then it gets tricky. If the Pistons don’t win out, the Nets keep the sixth seed. If the Pistons do win out, they tie both teams at 41-41 and the Magic get the sixth seed thanks to its Southeast division title, while the Nets finish at seventh.

Considering sixth place avoids both the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, far and away the top teams in the conference, there is plenty of incentive to grab that sixth seed.

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