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With playoffs in sight, Power Rankings push Nets up a notch ... or seven

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As Tuesday dawns, icy cold and dead of winter, the Nets are a game out of the playoffs, just behind the Pistons. Not only that, but they are only two and a half out of fifth, a place currently held by the Wizards. The top two spots in the East, held by the Pacers and Heat, along with the fourth seed, the surging Raptors, seem out of reach, but after the Al Horford-less Hawks succumbed to the Nets Monday, they look like a team on the decline.

That same sense of possibility is reflected on this week's Power Rankings, posted before Monday's win (okay, we were busy.) Most pundits had them rising with Marc Stein jumping them seven spots. No one has them above 20 but considering where they were two weeks ago when Brook Lopez went down, that's a good thing.

Here they are. One note of caution: the Nets next two opponents, the Warriors and Heat, are in everyone's top five.

John Schuhmann, (20)

Joe Johnson is still clutch, Deron Williams has shot 51 percent in the 13 games since his return, and the Nets are undefeated in 2014. They've had success playing small, with Shaun Livingston, Williams, Johnson and Paul Pierce registering a plus-28 in 56 minutes together. But this week, capped by a back-to-back against the Heat and Raptors, will tell us if their improvement is sustainable.

Marc Stein, ESPN (21)

I know it's been suggested that Jason Kidd going tie-less is the big change in Brooklyn since the calendar flipped to 2014. The committee (of one) would submit that the actual biggest difference with the Nets, starting with Thursday's mega comeback at OKC, is the fact that D-Will is suddenly switched on.

Marc J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports (23)

The Nets are seeking their second three-game win streak on Monday at Atlanta. Golden State and Miami visit Brooklyn this week.

Kurt Helin, NBC Sports (22)

They have won two in a row going small, with Paul Pierce at the four. Whatever works. There’s some real tests to this little run on the schedule this week — Miami, Golden State and Toronto.

Matt Moore, CBS Sports (24)

2014 has been pretty good to them. Maybe there's a point where you just can't suck anymore.

Adi Joseph, USA Today (24)

Deron Williams and Paul Pierce slowly but surely seem to be waking up. This might just work.

Brian Kamenetzky, Sheridan Hoops (22)

Followed up a shocking win at OKC with a home victory against the Cavs. Is two straight enough to call a "streak?" Yes, for a team that had only won consecutive games one other time this season.

Matt Dollinger, Sports Illustrated (22)

What a difference Andrei Kirilenko makes. Brooklyn is 4-3 when the Russian forward plays this season and 2-1 since his return from a back injury. The combination of Kirilenko's efficiency on offense and versatility on defense will make him a valuable contributor and potentially a starter once he rounds back into shape.

Mitch Lawrence, New York Daily News (22)

Jason Kidd has to hope that the Nets' last-season win in Oklahoma City on Joe Johnson's buzzer-beater turns the season around, just as the Nets' win in OKC turned it around last season when P.J. Carlesimo was the coach.