While NAS just recently called last week's match-up against the New York Knicks the Nets best chance to avoid an 0-17 - or worse - start to the season, tonight's game against the Sacramento Kings also provides the organization with a glimmer of hope to avoid infamy as they face the defending champion LA Lakers on the road on Sunday and then come home to face the 11-4 Dallas Mavericks.
I personally thought the Nets matched-up better with the Knicks, which was why I was willing to go out on a limb last week and call it a got to have win last Saturday. The Knicks do very little right, but they obviously did just enough right (and got the right calls from the refs) to push the Nets losing streak onward.
As for the Kings, they are the worst defensive team the Nets have faced this season, currently 27th in the league in defensive efficiency giving up 107.6 points per 100 possessions. That's a good thing for a team that has trouble scoring as much as the Nets do - who will likely insert all-star Devin Harris back into the starting line-up tonight. However, the Kings can score - they're 11th in the league in offensive efficiency while the Nets toil at dead last in that category. So even if the Kings let the Nets score more than they've been able to do so far this season, the Nets still have to figure out a way to stop them on defense. That won't be easy.
Fred Kerber in the New York Post today notes an important piece of coincidental history that could favor the Nets - when the Los Angeles Clippers got off to their 0-17 start in 1999-2000, a victory against the Sacramento Kings ended their losing streak. Of course, that was a Sacramento team that featured Oliver Miller and Jerome James.
Here's what Brook Lopez thinks about the losing streak, from Kerber:
"It's one game at a time. As good as those teams are, you've got to put it off," said Brook Lopez, who is coming off his career game: a personal high 32 points and 14 rebounds (an NBA season-high 10 offensive) in the 93-83 loss to Portland, defeat No. 15, Wednesday. "Either way, you have to focus on the game you're playing. You can't play tonight worrying about tomorrow."
For Nets fan looking for an injection of optimism, the Bleacher Report gives us five reasons why the Nets will win against the Kings. Some of the reasons include the aforementioned Kings' defense, and the starting lineup return by Devin Harris, but the list also includes the Kings' weak rebounding abilities, and the Nets "growing confidence" coming off a game where they battled the heavyweight Portland Trailblazers well into the 4th quarter before running out of gas.
Of course, the Nets have showed pluck and fight most of the season, with a few notable exceptions (hello Tuesday's game against the Nuggets). None of this has led to a victory. And the article's last reason doesn't exactly inspire confidence:
THE LAKERS AND MAVERICKS ARE NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE. The first of those two games is at Staples Center. That means Friday's game in Sacramento is pretty much New Jersey's only chance for salvation. The Laker game is an automatic loss and the Mavs game is close.
Update: Over at the TrueHoop mother site, Chris Sheridan talks about the Nets chances for tonight, Lawrence Frank, and three games the Nets should have won this season: against Minnesota opening night, the heartbreaker against Miami, and last week's second-half meltdown against the Bucks. I would have also added at least one of the two games against Philadelphia to Sheridan's list, probably the home game where the Nets had three chances to tie or go-ahead and couldn't hit a shot in the final minute.