The sense of urgency was conspicuously absent, replaced by a lethargic vibe that had boos cascading around Barclays Center.
All the grit and determination the Nets had shown in climbing back into their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Hawks vanished. They were getting thoroughly outplayed, shrinking in the bright national spotlight.
This wasn't the way most of the 17,732 in the sellout crowd expected things to go with the Nets one loss away from summer vacation and an offseason of uncertainty that could break apart the team's core.
But in their most important game of the season, the Nets never showed up Friday night and trailed for the game's final 47:42. Doomed by slow starts at the outset of each half, the eighth-seeded Nets saw their season come to an end as they were throttled by the top-seeded Hawks, 111-87.
Atlanta won the series, 4-2.
"It was tough," Joe Johnson said. "We've been in this situation before. Last year, we had Game 6 on our home floor to force a Game 7 and same situation tonight. I thought we would come out with a little bit more intensity and take care of home court like we have all postseason. But we were just flat coming out in the second half and they took off.
"I knew they wanted to come in here and really put us away, and they did it."
Things got so bad in the fourth quarter that Nets coach Lionel Hollins pulled the plug with 4:40 remaining, inserting his seldom-used players. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack trudged to their seats, probably wondering how they could have found themselves trailing by 28 points in an elimination game.
Now they'll have time to wonder how much next season's roster will resemble this one.
Brook Lopez had checked out of the action minutes earlier, finishing with 19 points and seven rebounds in what could be his final game in a Nets uniform. He holds a $16.7-million player option for next season, and although he previously indicated he wants to remain with the franchise, he didn't sound ready to fully commit and left some murkiness regarding his future.
"It's the way it is," Lopez said. "We'll see what happens. I have nothing to comment on in that regard."
Any possibility of extending this series and forcing a Game 7 in Atlanta vanished rapidly after halftime. The Hawks hung 41 points on the Nets in the third quarter and took a 92-66 laugher into the fourth.
The Nets were sloppy with the ball (seven turnovers), couldn't hit a shot (7-for-22 from the field) and played atrocious defense (Atlanta drained 16 of 24 attempts).
By then, the Nets were well on the way to finishing off their roller-coaster season while Atlanta was moving into the conference semifinals against the Wizards.
The good news for the Nets? After four coaches in the franchise's first three seasons in Brooklyn, at least they don't have to worry about another change there.
"I don't think Lionel is going anywhere, so that's definitely reassuring," Williams said. "You never know now what's going to happen in any offseason, but it's good to know that you are going to have the same coach. And if we keep most of our guys, you know we will have something to build on for once. We've had the same core, but we've been semi-healthy and [haven't] played together under the same system [consistently]. So hopefully we can build on things."