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Nets eliminated from postseason contention despite 115-111 win against Pacers

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NEW YORK — The Nets knew they had a small margin for error coming out of the All-Star break if they wanted to control their postseason destiny. But despite moving on from former head coach Jacque Vaughn mid-season and adding a veteran point guard in Dennis Schröder, they could not get out of their own way and losses just continued to pile up.

On Wednesday night, all of the dysfunction, all of the slow starts, all of the poor shooting performances, and all of the blowout losses finally came back to haunt Brooklyn.

Despite avenging Monday’s 22-point loss in Indiana with a 115-111 defeat of the Pacers, Atlanta beat Detroit, 121-113, at State Farm Arena. That meant the Hawks had secured at least 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings with just five games left.

And with the final play-in spot claimed, the Nets (30-47) were officially eliminated from postseason contention. Whether Brooklyn won or lost on Wednesday, all the Hawks needed was a win to seal their fate.

There is still some basketball left to be played, but it is only natural that the Nets’ organization, and their fans, will begin to look toward the future. And, right now, that future feels somewhat bleak, considering Houston owns their first- and second-round picks in the upcoming draft, and guys such as Nic Claxton, Dennis Smith Jr., Lonnie Walker IV and Trendon Watford are set to become free agents this summer.

Brooklyn must also decide if coach Kevin Ollie did enough during his brief tenure at the helm to have the interim label removed. If not, there is almost certainly a lengthy coaching search ahead, and those situations almost always come with a sense of uncertainty.

Also, what will become of Ben Simmons, who appeared in just 15 games this season and was sidelined indefinitely on March 7 because of more lingering back issues. The three-time All-Star has appeared in 57 total games since being acquired by the Nets three years ago, has made $78 million over that span, and is guaranteed $40.3 million on an expiring contract next season.

But there are still reasons to remain hopeful in Brooklyn. For starters, it does own a bounty of future assets that can be used to rebuild the team. Young players such as Cam Thomas, Noah Clowney, Jalen Wilson and Dariq Whitehead are only scratching the surface of their potential. And Mikal Bridges will remain under contract until 2026.

Speaking of potential, Clowney’s upside was on full display in Wednesday’s win, as the 19-year-old finished with career highs in points (22) and rebounds (10) in 17 minutes of action.

It was Clowney’s first game with multiple 3-pointers (he went 3 of 4 from deep) and became the second-youngest player in franchise history with a 20-point game. Cliff Robinson beat him out by seven days. Thomas scored a team-high 27 points and while Wilson played only 10 minutes, he knocked down the biggest free throws of the night with seven seconds left to push Brooklyn’s lead to four.

The Nets have a difficult road ahead, but there are some tools already in place to ensure a successful rebuild. However, patience will obviously be key. Contenders are rarely built in a single offseason, and the seeds already planted still need time to grow.