Maybe teams should try even after playoff position is assured. And not only because fans are paying more than $50 per ticket. Perhaps winning becomes a habit, as the New Jersey Nets may be finding out.
It was bad enough that stars like Allen Iverson, Vince Carter and Michael Jordan were out with injuries as the regular season closed. But the Kings chose to rest Chris Webber for their final game, the Magic sat down Tracy McGrady, the Celtics sat Antoine Walker, the 76ers rested Dikembe Mutombo and the suddenly cocky Nets barely played Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Keith Van Horn in losing badly at home to Toronto.
And without any significant playoff experience, the Nets couldn't close Saturday's Game 1 against the Pacers, who were in playoff-like games down the stretch to qualify.
"The last five games that we've won have been a buildup to this," said the Pacers' Brad Miller, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. "We lose any one of those, we're not even sitting here talking. Going overtime with Milwaukee [on April 12] and …