Playoff standing in trouble for struggling Nets – Metro US

Playoff standing in trouble for struggling Nets

The Nets have dropped nine of their last 13 games. (Photo: Getty Images)
Things are suddenly feeling a bit tighter around the Barclays Center. 
The Brooklyn Nets, who have surprised plenty by surpassing last season’s win total in February and remaining a fixture in the Eastern Conference playoff race, have encountered some choppier waters as of late. 
Now they have to hope that the ship doesn’t capsize. 
The Nets have lost three straight games to lesser opponents in the East. Brooklyn, currently tied for the No. 6 seed in the East, dropped a nine-point decision to the 11th-place Washington Wizards on Wednesday, only to follow it up with a 123-112 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. 
Charlotte sits just outside the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with a game at hand over the eighth-place Orlando Magic. 
Things got worse on Saturday when the Nets were blown out by the 10th-place Miami Heat, 117-88. It was Brooklyn’s largest loss of the season as its lackluster play has alarmingly continued. 
The Nets were one of the hottest teams in the NBA for the better part of a seven-week span. From Dec. 7 to Jan. 29, Brooklyn won 20 of 26 games, turning around an 8-18 record to a respectable 28-24 mark that put them right in the postseason conversation. 
In their last 13 games, however, Brooklyn is just 4-9 while the standings around them continue to tighten up. 
Possessing the No. 6 spot in the East, the Nets lead the conference’s proverbial second division. The East’s top-five that features the Bucks, Raptors, Pacers, 76ers, and Celtics are all within 10 games of each other. The Nets are seven games back of that grouping. 
Thanks to their recent struggles, they only possess sixth-place on percentage points in front of the No. 7 Detroit Pistons while the Magic and Hornets sit only 1.5 games behind the Nets. The Heat are only 2.5 games back of Brooklyn at No. 10, as well. 
They have three winnable games to right the ship this week. The Nets host the West’s 13th-seeded Dallas Mavericks on Monday night and the No. 14 team in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers, two nights later. They then travel to Atlanta to meet the No. 12 Hawks on Saturday. 
Things get far more difficult the following week, though, as they have four straight games against teams currently owning playoff spots beginning on Mar. 11. The Nets will face the Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, and Los Angeles Clippers, the latter three meetings coming in the form of a west-coast road trip. 
With the playoffs now anything but a lock, head coach Kenny Atkinson has to find a way to pull his group out of this collective funk. 
“It’s disappointing. That’s been the message since the All-star break. At a certain point its, ‘He who wants it, gets it,’ and we’re not the ones getting it right now,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to find our collective competitive spirit. That’s where we are right now.”