(November 2, 2013)
BROOKLYN—The fans and the media were fixated on what was, namely, the streak.
The Nets had lost 13 straight to the Miami Heat. Thirteen!
They had never beaten Miami since LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their talents to South Florida.
The losing streak drove sports talk radio conversation throughout Friday.
Reporters peppered the Nets with questions of Miami’s dominance on Thursday and Friday.
But when the Nets edged the Heat, 101-100, Friday night in a playoff-intensity game, in a sold-out, bold-out Barclays Center that had more stars than a constellation, it wasn’t the streak that the Nets focused on.
These Brooklyn Nets do not live in past. Kevin Garnett said he didn’t even know about the streak until Deron Williams mentioned it.
"What they've done up until this point, up until this year, doesn't really matter.’’ Said Garnett. “It's history.’’
The Nets live solidly in the present, in this season. The win over Miami in the home opener was important because it marked the beginning of new thinking, of championship thinking.
“We’re trying to establish some home presence here,’’ forward Paul Pierce said Friday night after scoring 19 points, dishing out six assists, grabbing five rebounds and blocking one LeBron James shot.
“In order for us to be one of the better teams in the league you got to establish something at home. We got off to a good start in trying to do that.’’
The Nets are 1-0 at home this season (1-1 overall), which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is.
The building was packed and percolating with former NBA stars, rappers, a mayor, a comedian, a soccer star, actors, lawyers, hedge fund managers, and all of that scene was being televised into every NBA living room in America.
The opponent, in the player’s eyes, wasn’t the franchise that had won 13 straight over the Nets. It is the opponent that had won the last two NBA titles and is favored to win a third.
It is the opponent the Nets have to go through.
It is the opponent the Nets want to beat here again on Jan. 10th.
They want to beat Indiana next Saturday. They want to beat the Knicks on Dec. 5th and the Clippers on Dec. 12th and the Bulls on Christmas Day.
The Nets want Barclays Center to become a house of horrors for opponents - because that’s how you win a title.
“We’re trying to establish something here, where teams don’t want to come in here, are scared to come in here,’’ said Pierce.
If that sounds familiar to New York sports fans, it should.
It was Derek Jeter who said there were postseason ghosts in the old Yankee Stadium, ghosts that petrified opponents or change the flight of balls or looked the other way when a young fan leaned over the outfield wall and made a ‘catch.’
Barclays Center is a basketball cathedral. Now it’s got to become a cathedral opposing teams feel they need to exorcise.
The Nets were 26-15 at home last season which doesn’t sound all that bad until you consider that the Heat were 37-4 and the Pacers, the team Miami beat in the Eastern Conference finals, were 31-10 at home.
This is not to suggest that ending the streak wasn’t important. Pierce summed it up best.
“It was good for our psyche,’’ he said.
It was. It was good for the fans. It was good for management.
But ending one streak would be meaningless if the Nets can’t start a streak of their own – a home win streak that makes opponents pale when they see the oculus on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
“Obviously we’re trying to set a creed here, a new culture, and I guess you start with getting bears and monkeys off your back.”
The Nets’ carry a lighter load into Sunday’s game (6 p.m.; YES) at Orlando against the Magic. The monkeys and bears are gone.
Now the Nets need to fill Barclays Center with ghosts and goblins.