EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The song playing at the end of the Nets’ rout of the Sixers was “I Just Want to Celebrate” by Rare Earth. Inside the locker room, Devin Harris gave a rare and had-to-be-heard rendition of the Bee Gees hit from “Saturday Night Fever.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Stayin’ alive,” Harris said, not sang, said.
Yes, he really said that and, yes, the Nets really did that with their 96-67 victory.
They might just be prolonging the inevitable, but it’s better to play this way than the way they played some of the other games that put them in this position.
Two that come to mind are last Sunday and Monday’s humiliating defeats to the Timberwolves and Bucks. But, the Nets seem determined to show those were aberrations and if you look at how they’ve played since it sure looks like they were.
The Nets are 2-1 since those two games and could be 3-0 if they could have closed out the Bulls in Chicago on Saturday. But, late-game execution inevitably will be what costs them a playoff spot, perhaps more so than the many unacceptable losses they’ve suffered.
One Nets’ loss or one Pistons’ win and they’re out. But, whether it matters to you or not, the Nets are a different team since their coach’s job became a topic, their passion and desire became under question and Keyon Dooling became a starter. That counts for something.
“Some teams could have cashed it in, but that’s never crossed our minds,” Dooling said. “We’re going to be as professional as we can be and try to build every time we take the court.”
They’ve played the last three games with a different approach. Maybe it’s because the pressure basically is off. Maybe it’s because they want to finish off the season the right way or maybe they believe they still have a shot at the playoffs.
They do. They need to go 5-0. Detroit needs to go 0-5. But, that’s not all. Indiana and Charlotte are ahead of the Nets still. There is the possibility of three-way ties, but let’s not go there because it’s too much to figure out.
The bottom line is the Nets refused to let go of their season just when just about everyone had figured they were done. A loss and a Detroit win would have ended it and meant more playing time for Yi Jianlian, more plays called for Brook Lopez, perhaps a Sean Williams’ sighting in non-garbage time play.
The Pistons did their part, beating the Bobcats. The game was over by halftime of the Nets’ game. To a man, they swore they didn’t know the score. They may not have been totally honest about that. But, their approach was play to win and not worry about what Detroit or any other team does.
It worked against a 76ers team that just hasn’t looked playoff caliber against the Nets. For the first time in their history, the Nets swept the season series from the 76ers. The Nets led this game by double-digits for the final 28:40.
“We didn’t say anything about positioning or seeding or games left or nothing like that,” Jarvis Hayes said. “We just wanted to come out and play hard and play together.”
The Nets have five games left and barely a glimmer of hope. Few thought they would last this long, especially after last week.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).