With two games left to play in their relocated regular-season schedule, the Brooklyn Nets have already been one of the more notable surprises within the NBA’s Orlando bubble.
Following Sunday night’s 129-120 victory over the vaunted Los Angeles Clippers, the Nets clinched the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs having successfully kept the No. 8 Orlando Magic at bay.
It was no easy task, either, considering the odds were stacked against the Nets just heading into the restart.
They were without three of their top players in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant — both recovering from injuries — and Spencer Dinwiddie, who recently battled COVID-19.
Brooklyn, with an interim head coach in Jacques Vaughn after the shock firing of Kenny Atkinson, had to scramble just to bring a full roster down to Orlando.
Yet, they’ve won four of their six games in the bubble, including an unlikely triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers and a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that was the largest NBA point spread upset since 1993 at +19.
Including Sunday night’s win over the Clippers, that’s victories over three of the very best the NBA has to offer, even though the Bucks and Clippers were shorthanded when they encountered Brooklyn.
Regardless, it’s an accomplishment that is not going unnoticed by Vaughn considering the roster the Nets have been rolling out.
Just look at the squad that took on Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers on Sunday.
A nine-man rotation featured the likes of Chris Chiozza, Justin Anderson, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Tyler Johnson provided 21 points off the bench as well for a starting five that is deemed a hodgepodge of uncertainty compared to what the Nets were expecting after the Irving and Durant signings: Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Garrett Temple, Rodions Kurucs, and Jarrett Allen.
“Overall, guys look forward to playing the high-profile teams and players in this league and our guys were extremely ready,” said Vaughn, who cited the team’s ability to string wins together in difficult situations. “The best takeaway for us is that we were able to put back-to-back games together in which we were able to execute on the floor.”
“It’s great to see this team weather storms and answer a lot of questions.”
They’ll face the Magic on Tuesday afternoon (1 p.m. ET) before closing out the regular season against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Then comes the true test of facing the defending-champion Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.
For now, though, Vaughn is enjoying his and his team’s unlikely ride in Disney World.
“There’s a really strong, competitive spirit about us which is awesome to see,” he said. “A group of guys that are jelling together, appreciate each other and are really playing extremely hard. It’s indeed fun to be a part of.”