The Brooklyn Nets have mostly moved past their awful start to the 2013-14 season. After running their record to 10-21 following a road loss to the San Antonio Spurs on New Year's Eve, the Nets have been excellent in 2014, going 10-1 through Sunday's win over the Boston Celtics to near .500 and work their way back into the East's Dorian Gray-ish playoff picture.
Unfortunately for the Nets, the closing seconds of Monday's home game against the Toronto Raptors may have inspired flashbacks to those early-season struggles. With 17 seconds left and the shot clock turned off, the Nets held a 103-100 lead and the inside track to their sixth consecutive victory. After a quick John Salmons lay-up with 12 seconds remaining, that margin dwindled to a single point, still a decent position for the Nets with free throws presumably on the way and several solid shooters on the floor.
Then everything went terribly wrong. Playing excellent defense to guard the inbounds, the Raptors forced a desperate pass into the backcourt from point guard Deron Williams. Forward Patrick Patterson intercepted the ball before it could reach Joe Johnson, passed to Kyle Lowry, received the ball back shortly thereafter, and drained a mid-range jumper to give the Raptors an improbable lead with only six seconds on the clock. After some confusion in which the Nets players appeared to think they had a nonexistent timeout, Paul Pierce dribbled the ball up the court and failed to connect on a long three-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Raptors the 104-103 win.
Even more improbably, this steal followed Lowry's theft of a Williams inbounds pass with 19 seconds on the clock, although in that case he was whistled for an offensive foul. The Nets' late-game execution in this context clearly left something to be desired.
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