It was a battle for last place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, but any card-carrying optimist can see a future where the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers could be fighting for something much more significant. The 76ers are loaded with frontcourt talent — Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are all potential All-Stars (even if they won’t keep all three). And the Nets, reinvigorated by Jeremy Lin‘s cautious return, show signs that they have the character and the intent to build a culture to compete.
Hard-fought to the end, the 108-107 Sixers victory had playoff intensity despite the meager stakes. The energy was great on both ends. The Nets surged back in the fourth quarter to fall just short, with Lin making hustle plays and hitting one of the two shots he needed to put the Nets over. But Lin was still juiced afterwards: “I thought we had awesome plays. I think the one I could have hit would have tied it up. We had great looks, great plays.” Lin scored 16 points in 22 minutes shooting 50% from the field.