When the 2013 season opened, the goal for the Brooklyn Nets was simple: make the playoffs and keep playing until late May.
Now, with four regular season games remaining before Brooklyn will compete in the Eastern Conference playoffs next weekend, it's all about finishing. The Nets have the four-seed essentially locked up, and will play either the Chicago Bulls or the Atlanta Hawks -- two formidable opponents -- in the first round.
Tonight, the Nets have an opportunity to prove they can play deep into the postseason, even if that includes a second-round series against the daunting Miami Heat. Brooklyn is in Indiana and will face the Pacers, the current three-seed, in a match-up that features two teams that are looking to make some noise in the playoffs.
Aside from the Heat and the New York Knicks, few teams are giving the Pacers and Nets a serious look as a title contender. Even though a win tonight doesn't mean much for seeding either way, it does make a difference in each team's confidence as the regular season winds down.
For doubters of the Nets' playoff chances, just look at the numbers: Brooklyn has gone 33-15 in games against Eastern Conference opponents this season, and they have set a franchise record with 22 road wins. Within the Atlantic Division, the Nets have gone 11-4 and have given the second-seeded Knicks plenty of scares throughout the season.
On top of that, if the Nets win tonight, they still have a shot for the three-seed. Indiana currently holds a three-game lead over Brooklyn with four games left, so the Nets would need to win-out and the Pacers would need to lose-out, but it's still a possibility.
Sure, a lot may not change tonight in the standings, but it will be a good test, for the Nets and Pacers, as two teams looking to make a surprise run in the upcoming playoffs.