Brooklyn Nets: Worst stretch of season coming at worst possible time

Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets have lost their last 3 games in alarming fashion, a manner that is significantly worse than their 8-game slide earlier this season.

Even as the Brooklyn Nets were losing eight straight games in late November and early December, there was at least some sense of hope because the team was competitive in almost every game.

In that eight-game stretch, the average margin of defeat was 6.5 points and included three losses by two points and a double-overtime defeat.

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Brooklyn came out of that losing streak to win their next seven games and was 9-1 in their next 10.

Since beating the San Antonio Spurs in a 101-85 rout on Monday, however, the Nets have taken three disturbingly bad losses.

On Wednesday, they fell at home to the Washington Wizards 125-116 in a game in which they trailed by as much as 28 points.

On Friday, Brooklyn lost again at home, this time 123-112 to the Charlotte Hornets after being down by as much as 21.

Then Saturday night in Miami, the roof caved in as the Nets took their worst loss of the season, a 117-88 pasting at the hands of the Miami Heat, trailing by as much as 31 in this one.

While the math doesn’t track, this is a case where three is in fact greater than eight. Because there is no question the last three games are the worst extended stretch of play the Nets have had this season.

It’s been getting to this point for some time, though. The signs were there.

After beating the New York Knicks on Jan. 25, the Nets were a season-high four games over .500 at 27-23 and had gone 19-5 over their previous 24 games.

Brooklyn is 5-10 since the win over the Knicks and with the loss in Miami fell below the .500 mark for the first time since they were 22-23 following a victory at home over the Boston Celtics on Jan. 14.

The last two games are just the third time this season Brooklyn has lost consecutive games by double digits. The first was Dec. 28-29, road losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks. The second was Feb. 2 and 4, losses on the road to the Orlando Magic and at home to the Bucks.

Considering the Washington loss should have been by more than nine save for some productive minutes in the fourth quarter well after the competitive phase of the game was over, this marks Brooklyn’s worst three-game stretch since January 2018 when they were pummeled in consecutive games by Milwaukee (by 25), the Minnesota Timberwolves (by 14) and the Knicks (by 16).

And it could not be happening at a worse time.

The Nets’ hold on sixth place in the Eastern Conference is now very tenuous, by mere percentage points (.4923 to .4918) over the Detroit Pistons, who have won eight of their last 10 games. In eighth place are the Magic, 1½ games behind Brooklyn but also having gone 8-2 in their last 10.

Outside the top eight, Charlotte is percentage points behind Orlando and 1½ in back of the Nets. Miami is a game behind both the Magic and Hornets and Washington lurks four games out of the eighth spot.

Brooklyn’s last three opponents played with the competitiveness of teams fighting for their playoff lives because, in fact, they all were. The Nets seemed unable to match that level.

They have four games remaining in a seven-game span — during which they are 0-3 — of what appeared on paper to be “winnable” games. The Nets host the Dallas Mavericks Monday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday and visit the Atlanta Hawks Saturday.

Those games lead up to their final home game before a seven-game road swing and that March 11 game against the Pistons has huge playoff implications since the winner gains the important head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. The teams split their first two meetings of the season in October.

Having been run out of the gym by three straight teams that were in survival mode, the Nets have to figure out how to reach that level of intensity quickly.

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Because with three straight losses has knocked them back to the pack in the lower part of the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn is also fighting for its playoff life.