Net gain: A Brooklyn win at Indy clinches playoff spot

Spencer Dinwiddie and the Nets are facing the Pacers in a crucial Eastern Conference game with playoff implications.

INDIANAPOLIS — Going into the season, only few could have predicted that the Brooklyn Nets would be playing meaningful basketball the last two games of the season. However, here they are on the final week of the season playing for a game that will determine their postseason hopes. A win tonight against the Indiana Pacers will clinch their first playoff birth since 2015.

“Embrace it,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters. “I don’t think it’s nerves, I don’t think it’s anxiety, I think it’s exciting.”

General manager Sean Marks was also seen around the arena pregame, and Nets’ fans have him to thank for this tremendous turnaround. When he took the job in 2016, replacing then-GM Billy King, he was inheriting the worst job in the NBA.

The team traded all of their own draft picks in 2014, and would not have their own pick again until 2019.

Five Years without a draft pick of their own. 

There would be no tanking to get better, because the worse they did the better the draft pick would be for the Boston Celtics, or Cleveland Cavaliers. Yet, even last summer without having their own draft pick, they are one win away from going to the playoffs.

Marks deserves to be in the running for Executive of The Year, and maybe should be seen as the Executive of The Last Five Years. This was seen as impossible, but making smart trades and finding diamond in the rough free-agents, they did it. Almost.

One of those players they found was Spencer Dinwidde, signing him out of the G-League in 2016. He’s become one of the best sixth men in the NBA.

“We also acknowledge the magnitude of this game,” he told Amico Hoops. “And we want to make the playoffs so we gotta get this win.”

The Eastern Conference has become such a tight race that it can be hard to not watch the scores of the other competing teams. The Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons have all been within three games of each other.

After a recent Magic game, Aaron Gordon asked out loud if the Nets had won that night. For the Nets themselves, they have stayed away from peeking at the other teams. Atkinson said he did not even know the score of the Miami Heat’s win today against the Toronto Raptors, and Diniwiddie is keeping that same mindset.

”We’ve played ourselves into a position where we don’t have to care about the Heat’s score,” he said. “So you know it’s a blessing in that sense.”

For the home team, they know that they’ll be playing against a hungry Nets team, and will have to be on their A game.

“Just try to go out and match their energy,” Aaron Holliday said. “Get all the 50-50 balls and just play hard.”