A night that started with a sincere apology ends with Nets win in home finale

Before starters were announced ahead of the Nets‘ home finale against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, Mikal Bridges jogged out to halfcourt and was handed a microphone.

The star forward shared a message, staying as positive as he could in the moment. With every camera inside Barclays Center pointed at him, he thanked the sellout crowd of 17,732 for their support and apologized to fans for what has been a disappointing season in Brooklyn, to put it gently.

“It’s not fun for them. It’s definitely not fun for us,” said Bridges, who has two years left on his four-year, $91 million deal.

The Nets will not host any playoff games this year, but they certainly had Barclays Center rocking at different points this season.

Like when the team drilled 25 3-pointers against the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 26. Or when Ben Simmons finally made his return to the court against the Utah Jazz on Jan. 29. Or when Brooklyn knocked down 18 treys in the second half against Chicago on March 29. Or, more recently, when it outscored the Detroit Pistons 38-20 in the fourth quarter last Saturday, including a 19-0 run late in regulation, to steal a 113-103 win — just to name a few.

“It just shows the true fans, how much they really care,” Bridges said. “You hear them when we were winning games earlier in the year, and even last year, they’re there. But for them to bring it when we’re not playing our best is really dope to see.”

Wednesday proved to be one of those nights, even though the Nets did not play their sharpest game. They entered the fourth quarter trailing Toronto 80-77, but the crowd came to life when Dennis Schröder picked up his offense late in regulation. Trying to keep pace with the Raptors, the point guard scored eight straight points, starting at the 5:59 mark in the fourth quarter, to put Brooklyn ahead 95-94.

Later, Noah Clowney skied for a put-back dunk off a Schröder miss to tie the game at 97 with 2:22 left. When the “defense” chats began, Nic Claxton responded with his fifth block of the night. The crowd started to believe, and “Let’s Go Nets!” chants followed.

“I mean, for the fans to stay locked in even though we didn’t make it to the postseason says a lot about this organization, this fanbase,” Schröder said. “It’s the last home game. We wanted to leave it all out there. At the end they were carrying us as well.

A three-point play by Schröder with 35.3 seconds left put the Nets up by a bucket, and on the Raptors’ next offensive possession, Garrett Temple lost the ball under the basket, a scramble ensued, and Schröder was able to secure the loose ball and call a timeout.

Interim head coach Kevin Ollie drew something up to get the team organized, but Noah Clowney turned it over once the ball was thrown in. However, the rookie did not give up on the play, instead chasing down Temple in the open court for his seventh block of the game. Then all Schröder had to do was ice the game at the free throw line.

A night that started with a sincere apology ended with the Nets’ 32nd win of the season, although they did make things harder than they had to be after turning the ball over 15 times, surrendering 18 second-chance points and allowing 16 3-pointers against a team that shot just 37.2% from the field.

“That’s the Brooklyn way,” Ollie said. “Gritty, but with a little style to get the fans into it. We didn’t want a blowout so they’d all leave early.”

But none of that mattered on Wednesday.

But none of that mattered on Wednesday night. Not the ugly stats. Not the fact that Immanuel Quickley finished with 32 points, or another forgettable offensive night from Bridges. This group of Nets players were able to get one last win at Barclays Center, 106-102, and that is what matters most. To save a better impression for last. Because their fans deserved much better than what they ultimately got this season.

Brooklyn’s final two games of the season will be played on Friday against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden and Sunday against the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

“It was fan appreciation night and I didn’t think there would be that many people. I mean, it was standing room only. They filled that building up and you could just feel the spirit… I’m glad we gave them something [good] to go home with and just thankful for their participation this season.

“There’s been a lot of changes, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of injuries, but the one thing that didn’t waver was them supporting us.”