clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Nets at crossroads ... again

New, comments
Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Is it just a funk or is it burnout, the not surprising result of one frustration after another? No matter. The Nets will take a four-game losing streak into Boston on Tuesday, only four games ahead of the Wizards for the eighth and final playoff seed. It may not be must-win, and the odds will be against them. but it sure would help if at the end of the game, they had scored more points than the Celtics.

Both Kenny Atkinson and his players thought they saw some hope in the Nets comeback Saturday night in Miami. Just for a moment, put aside their inability to get a shot off with 9.1 seconds left on the clock, down two. They did come back from 14 down with 8:31 to play and nine down with 2:44 left.

Now, what they need is a real victory, not a moral one.

“We’re going to have to play well again Tuesday against Boston. And then obviously we play against a good Memphis team as well. It’s a tough stretch,” Joe Harris said. “But you hope that you can sort of build off this and play consistent quality basketball.”

Tough indeed. Over the next 10 days, the Nets play Boston away; then three straight home games vs. Memphis, San Antonio and Chicago before launching a four-game West Coast swing in L.A. vs. the Lakers. By the time they return to Brooklyn on March 18, their fate will most likely be sealed: a return to the playoffs or back to the lottery in a mediocre draft.

There were some highlights beyond the comeback in the loss to Miami.

Their defense, which gave up 141 points to the lowly Hawks, returned and they were only out-rebounded by one. The defensive breakdown in the first three losses —they gave up 122 points in that stretch— argued that they weren’t that good defensively, despite the stats.

And Jarrett Allen, who’d been in his own funk, returned to form. Allen had 17 points and a team-leading 11 rebounds Saturday, shooting 7-of-8. Spencer Dinwiddie saw Allen’s resurgence, after two five-point games vs. Washington and Atlanta as a big boost.

“Totally different,” Dinwiddie said of Allen. “I’ve said J.A. has a chance to be a top-five center in this league. When he comes with that aggressiveness, he shows that type of talent, and he shows what he’s capable of.”

So, all in all, Kenny Atkinson thinks he saw a turning point in South Beach.

“This is part of the NBA. It’s a long season. We’ll get it back down the road,” Atkinson said Saturday night. “Obviously we have a tough game in Boston and then we have home games where we’ve got to get some games back. I’m confident in the group. They’re together, playing hard. I feel good about it going forward.”

Of course, if the Nets don’t make the playoffs, they will have two first picks in the 2020 NBA Draft, their own and the Sixers’ lottery protected first. That doesn’t mean two draft picks necessarily. The Draft isn’t very good and Sean Marks has shown that he’s willing to deal firsts for future advantage. He dealt two firsts last June to help find the cap space for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But that would be a huge disappointment for the organization and the fans. In the meantime though, it’s one game at at time.