The Brooklyn Nets shocked the NBA world by beating the Golden State Warriors in thrilling fashion. Since then, the Nets have dropped four straight contests and are in danger of missing the playoffs.
Sitting at 25-37, the Nets shouldn’t even be in playoff contention. Yet they remain in the race by virtue of a weak Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference, the Nets would sit 9.5 games behind by the eighth seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. In the East? A mere three games behind the Charlotte Hornets.
The Nets looked poised to make a late-season push for a playoff spot after climbing in the standings after the All-Star Break. A few short weeks ago the Nets held the eighth seed in the East, but after losing four straight have slipped to 11th. Brooklyn will need to leapfrog at least three teams to qualify for this year’s postseason.
Can the Nets realistically make the playoffs? Yes, but only if they start doing one thing- winning.
This four game skid started with a blowout loss to the Charlotte Hornets, a game the Nets seemingly didn’t show up for, falling behind 29-8 in the first quarter. This game was especially crucial as it would’ve dealt the Hornets, a direct competitor, a loss, as well as secure the head-to-head tiebreaker if the Nets and Hornets were to finish the season with the same record.
The following night, the Nets looked pretty good at home against the Phoenix Suns. Brooklyn pulled away with a 34-19 advantage in the third quarter. However, the Suns led a furious rally late in the fourth quarter, where they would eventually force overtime on a late Brandon Knight bucket. Two-time hero this season, Jarrett Jack, missed a shot at the buzzer and overtime ensued, where the Nets would be outscored 16-8.
Next opponent: the Utah Jazz. Middle to low tier team, like the Hornets and Suns? Check. Close game at halftime? Nets only trailed by one. Second-half collapse? Of course.
The Nets were pretty competitive in their home date with the Jazz, losing 95-88, but this was the third frustrating loss in a row for a team with realistic playoff expectations. Thaddeus Young finally started against the Jazz, a move that has been weeks in the making, but “led” all starters with a -8 plus/minus. The Nets were also abysmal at the free throw line, connecting on only 4 of 11 attempts, with the Jazz hitting 17 of 21.
Concluding the current four game skid was a matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans, whom the Nets lost to in late February sans Anthony Davis. With Davis returning to the lineup, the Nets were overmatched once again. Of course, the Nets took a gritty 27-23 after the first quarter but fell apart and lost 111-91. The first quarter lead was highlighted by a Lopez dunk over Davis in the paint.
There’s an obvious common theme in the Nets four straight losses, and even the win over the Golden State Warriors. The Nets are very susceptible to big runs by opposing teams. Whether in the beginning, middle, or end of a game, the Nets will go ice-cold from the field and become flaccid on defense for minutes or quarters at a time.
Obviously, the talent is available in Brooklyn to make the playoffs, but these inconsistent results and huge runs by opposing teams need to stop.
Who are the Nets biggest threats and hurdles to grabbing a playoff spot this year? (Besides themselves)
The Indiana Pacers have won six straight and nine of their last ten to surge into the East’s seventh position. They only hold a half-game lead over the Hornets, but if they can hold down the fort for a few more weeks they should be bolstered by the return of All-Star Paul George.
Sitting in the eighth slot is the aforementioned Hornets, who are also expecting some reinforcements soon. Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker is set to return Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings, after missing over a month due to a knee injury. The Nets blew a prime opportunity in their loss to the Hornets, and Charlotte inched a little closer to the playoffs as a result.
Next up is the Miami Heat, holding a 28-35 record and 2.5 games ahead of the Nets. The Heat and Nets look to square off on March 11, another opportunity for the Nets to take advantage of a head to head matchup. The Heat have went 5-5 in their last ten contests, and seem to have lost their identity after losing Chris Bosh for the season and trading for point guard Goran Dragic.
The Boston Celtics have surprisingly looked very good the past few weeks after the acquisition of point guard Isaiah Thomas. The Rajon Rondo-less squad is among the teams looking to make a late playoff push, and the eighth seed is really anyone’s to grab.
The Nets can extend their season and need to get their act together fast. With upcoming contests with the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Nets need to at least start beating weaker teams consistently. The ball is quite literally in the Nets court right now, and they still control their own playoff destiny.