There are two bases for power rankings, it appears. There’s the school of thought that ranks the teams based on what they did the week before. The other is more cumulative, meaning in the Nets case, it’s hard to escape the stain that 1-27 strain in the middle season. It stays with you.
So in this week’s rankings, you’ll see the Nets both ahead and below the Knicks, even though the Nets beat them twice in recent weeks and the Manhattanites haven’t put two wins together in three months. (The Nets have two such “streaks” of late.)
So here ya go. It should be noted that the last two in this mix were posted last week. And oh yeah, a thank you to Marc Stein for giving us a shoutout for our report on how Brook Lopez’s three point prowess is no longer a curiosity.
The Nets have shot 29 percent from 3-point range over the last two weeks, but are 5-3 (and had late leads in two of the three losses) with the league's best defense in that stretch, taking advantage of a soft close to their schedule (and a relatively healthy roster). They're playing 12 of their final 14 games against the league's worst 11 offenses, allowing them to climb from 28th to 22nd in defensive efficiency. Sunday's win over Atlanta ended a 22-game losing streak in the second game of a back-to-back and was just their fourth win over a team currently in playoff position. Two of the four have come against the Hawks.
For all the kudos they rightfully won during a 7-10 March, leave it to the heartless Committee to point out that the Nets' next defeat will clinch consecutive 60-loss seasons for the first time in franchise history. Yet it's also true that Brooklyn has been playing well enough lately to be justifiably miffed by the manner of last week's losses to Philadelphia (home) and Detroit (road) by a combined six points. What's left for the Nets to chase in their final five games? Avoiding the league's worst record -- if only to slightly reduce Boston's odds of coming away with the No. 1 overall pick in June -- remains a tall order with four of those five games to come on the road. But the guys over at @NetsDaily came up with a potentially more feasible pursuit: Brook Lopez is just 22 3-pointers shy of besting fellow 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki's highest single-season total (151).
The Nets are 9-10 since March 1, with chance to finish the year .500 since February ended. They should throw a little parade for that. Not a big one, just like, Brook Lopez on a float waiving a flag while Caris Levert runs around with streamers, in a circle around the outside of Barclays.
The Nets have won 5-of-8 and are showing some life. The good news for Boston fans is Brooklyn was so bad for much of the season that there is still almost no chance Phoenix or the Lakers can tank their way to a worse record this year. But the Celtics have the Nets pick next year also and you have to wonder if that is losing a little potential value.
Honestly, it wasn’t clear if the Nets were gonna win another game a month ago, so this month, with no lottery odds in the balance (sadly), is gravy.
The Nets, still feeling the ill-effects of that 2013 trade with the Celtics, won't be able to cash in on this 16-win season — a wound that has been reopened this NCAA tournament, as some of the top prospects like Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox and Josh Jackson have left the NBA world anxious for their arrival. But thanks to the trade-deadline deal with Washington for Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets at least have the Wizards' first-rounder to look forward to.
The Brooklyn Nets won seven games in March.
And since they're losing their lottery pick to the Boston Celtics, we can cue that full-on hacky Anchorman reference that applies so perfectly.
"I do feel the improvement," head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters after March win No. 7 against Atlanta on Sunday. "But it's not about the wins. Before the road trip, I felt we were starting to improve. I felt like it was coming."
These haven't been high-quality victories; a 122-109 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on March 6 was probably the best, but Memphis has been a mess for a few weeks now. Otherwise, the Nets' victims include the Sacramento Kings, the Knicks (twice), the Detroit Pistons, the Suns and then the Hawks (sans Paul Millsap).
Still, wins are wins, and the Nets got themselves another one this week to cap their best month of the season.
(* indicates a ranking compiled last week)