As crazy as it may seem, the Nets still have an outside chance at the playoffs thank to their current four-game winning streak. Even crazier, Nets fans are going to have to root for the Knicks in some games, starting today.
Before fans get too hyped, the Nets are in 11th place, six games out of eighth as of this writing, and have to jump over four teams to earn an improbable postseason berth.
They have to do it with home games against the Celtics, Bulls, Knicks and Heat and road games at Orlando, Atlanta, New York and Chicago over the last 18 games.
But just as I’ve said a trade isn’t dead until the main player involved is traded, the Nets are not eliminated until they’re eliminated. It’s just going to take a lot of work and wins, and a lot of help from some rivals.
The Knicks play one game against the Bobcats, who took a half-game lead on Indiana for eighth with today’s win at Toronto. The Knicks also have three games – starting with tonight - against Indiana; play the Bucks twice and the Pistons once. Those are the four teams the Nets are chasing.
They all have pretty rough schedules, too.
The Bobcats have road games at Houston, Oklahoma City and San Antonio this week and also play at Boston, Orlando and Miami before the season is out. In addition to the three games against the Knicks, the Pacers play Boston twice, the Bulls once and they’re at Orlando. The Bucks are at Boston, Orlando, Miami and Oklahoma City and the Pistons are at the Hawks and Celtics and play the Heat.
That’s what makes it not out of the question, but with 21 wins, the Nets clearly have to get all the games they should get and beat some teams they’re not expected to beat.
Only four of the Nets’ remaining 18 games are against teams with worse records than they have, so they’re going to have to win a bunch of games they’re not expected to win.
We’ve seen it happen before and we all remember when.
In 2004-05, the Nets seemingly were dead and buried several times that season. They were nine games under .500, at 27-36, after a 25-point loss at Miami on March 12. For the Record, we deemed the Nets’ season over, which didn’t go over well with their coach at the time, Lawrence Frank.
But Vince Carter went off over the last 19 games and Jason Kidd was the consummate leader on both ends of the court. They led a group of players – many of whom were not in the NBA a couple of years later – to a 15-4 finish and a playoff berth on the last day of the season with a 42-40 record.
Although they are different players, the Nets hope Deron Williams can play the Kidd role, but they don’t have a Carter on the roster and he was just unstoppable over that stretch. He helped lift Kidd’s level of play because Kidd loves to prove people wrong and he was driven to get to the playoffs.
These Nets don’t have the stars that team had, but they have a better all around cast. They just need to win as many games as possible and for some teams you may not like very much to do the Nets some favors.
The Nets go for their fifth straight win tomorrow against the Celtics and first on U.S. soil with Williams.
He missed their past two games – and Nets’ wins – because he was in Dallas for the birth of his son. The Nets’ previous two victories with Williams came in London.
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)