Nets misfortune has put them in must-win situation down the stretch

Brooklyn Nets forward James Johnson is fouled by Toronto Raptors guard Malachi Flynn as he drives against Raptors forward Pascal Siakam during the third quarter at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The number of games on the Nets schedule is quickly dwindling and after Monday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, one thing is abundantly clear: Every game from here on out has become a must-win for Brooklyn to get out of the play-in round.

But saying that and doing that are two very different things, and at the moment it appears the universe has done just about everything it can to make that task as tough as possible. The Nets’ luck over the better part of the season can only be compared to that of the family from the movie Poltergeist.

In the span of one day on Monday, the hopes of Kyrie Irving playing at home this season took another hit as Mayor Eric Adams reaffirmed his position not to give the Nets’ superstar any special treatment, questions continued to surround Ben Simmons exact return and then their head coach had to be placed in COVID protocol.

By the time the Nets had taken the court on Monday night, it looked as though the air had come out of the tires a bit. Still, with the season winding down nights like that are not affordable anymore.

Especially as the schedule matches them up against teams that they are chasing in the standings. The Nets need to leapfrog Toronto and then catch Boston to get out of a play-in-round spot.

Brooklyn will have to face the Miami Heat on Thursday when Kevin Durant may or may not return, and then travel to Boston on Sunday for an afternoon matinee.

Then of course there’s the pesky rematch with Toronto on Tuesday night that means so much as well.

“It’s huge, we gotta get this win in Toronto, especially they came here and did what they wanted in our gym,” Bruce Brown said on Monday night. “It’s unacceptable, so we gotta go out there and take care of business.”

Even through the chaos of COVID and other injuries earlier this season, and as recently as January, the Nets had managed to weather the storm and remain near the top of the Eastern Conference. Now the situation has become a lot more complicated.

“For us right now, every game is important,” James Johnson said about Brooklyn’s current predicament. “We know how it goes. We need to get in an offset. That’s the bottom line. I feel like once we get in there, I like our chances against anybody.”

Things began to turn when Kevin Durant was hurt during the Nets’ win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 15 and Brooklyn’s luck began to spiral after that. Even at times recently when things seem to be headed in the right direction, news always comes out that turns the tide yet again.

For a moment the cavalry appeared to be coming over the hill for the depleted Nets roster, but for now, Durant remains the closest to returning to the floor. And the Nets have tried to keep their positive posture.

“I think our group is so used to adversity and misfortune as far as availability,” Nash said before he was placed in COVID protocol. “I don’t think we perseverate too much on the day-to-day. I think everyone just continues to focus and work at improving. We’ve asked them to come together during this difficult stretch and they’ve done that. We’ve asked them to try and improve every single day, they’ve done that. We haven’t always got the results, but we feel like we’re building something and finding growth and improvement.

“It’s just not necessarily according to wins all the time yet, but I think recently we’ve won some games, improved, the group has gotten tighter. So I don’t think they’re so affected on a day-to-day basis over who’s available and when they’re coming back or not.”