BROOKLYN – They stood and cheered. And stood and cheered. And stood and cheered some more.
The Brooklyn Nets played their last regular season home game Tuesday night in Barclays Center and it was a Kings County love fest.
As the players were introduced, as Bryan Bautista, a Barclays Center usher from Sheepshead Bay, belted out the national anthem, the love affair between this team and these fans was never more passionate.
Hello Brooklyn. Amore Brooklyn.
When the final horn sounded, not even a 109-98 loss to the crosstown rival Knicks could douse the love. This was not "Good-bye." These fans will see this team again in the playoffs.
The Nets (44-37) went 28-13 this season in the basketball cathedral on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. It is an impressive feat, considering the Nets opened the season 5-9 at home.
So much has changed since the first two-plus months of the season when the Nets were besieged by injury. Once the calendar flipped to 2014, the Nets became a different team.
They’ll finish the regular season Wednesday night in Cleveland. The Nets need a win – or a Washington Wizards loss to the Celtics in Boston – to clinch the fifth seed. A Nets' loss and a Wizards' win drops Brooklyn to the No. 6 seed.
This team has proven, more than once, that it can overcome adversity.
They slipped to 10-21 before Joe Johnson sank a high-arching jumper over Serge Ibaka for a 95-93 win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Jan. 2.
“Most guys like to do a dance,’’ said Kidd. “Most guys like to celebrate, but Joe just moves on. That kind of kick-started our season in trusting in one another.’’
The Nets will need that trust going forward.
If they open against the Chicago Bulls, the Nets will have to man up against the likes of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson. If Toronto is the opponent, they’ll have their hands full with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Before the game, Nets coach Jason Kidd, who has put health and rest ahead of wins and losses this last week, was confident this team has not lost its edge.
“We have some veteran guys in there that understand what this time of the year is all about, so I trust them about getting their work done, play or not play,’’ said Kidd. “It’s kind of a trust issue that we’ve had with one another all season.
“I trust those guys, if they don’t play, that they get their work in and they’re ready to go next game. And if not, be ready for the playoffs.’’
The playoffs begin this weekend. The Nets will open on the road, but know this: When they return to Barclays Center, the fans will stand and cheer.
NOTES: Shaun Livingston (toe), Alan Anderson (abdominal muscle) and Mirza Teletovic (twins) did not play. Yes, you read that right. Mirza and his wife welcomed a pair of twins. Mazel Tov, Mirza.
Paul Pierce, who scored 13 points, became just the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 1,000 points in 15 consecutive seasons. He is the only active player to have done that.