Nets well aware of importance of upcoming stretch as they push towards postseason

Kevin Durant (7) looks to pass the ball to Seth Curry as Portland Trail Blazers forward Justise Winslow defends during the first quarter at Barclays Center.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When the always upbeat head coach of the Nets is fuming after a game, then you know that something went wrong. Steve Nash was very clearly unhappy after the Nets win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

It was understandable considering how the night went against a team that the Nets needed to beat and that was undermanned. And with Brooklyn in the middle of a dogfight for positioning, it’s not something the Nets can afford to have happen again going forward.

The Nets are still in eighth place in the Eastern Conference trying to catch the Toronto Raptors in seventh and the Cleveland Cavaliers in sixth. Brooklyn hopes to avoid the play-in round, but with 11 games left that is becoming increasingly unlikely that they’ll b able to leapfrog those two teams.

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It will be another important week ahead for the Nets with Utah Jazz in town on Monday and Nash is expecting a better effort from his team after Friday’s close call.

“We don’t have time to giveaway days, shootarounds,” Nash said after practice on Sunday. “I was disappointed we gave away the first half as much (last game) because it put us in a difficult position to win the game as it was that we wasted an opportunity to get better. Yeah, we’ve talked to the group a lot about 11 games we’re playing against teams with four, five, six years of corporate knowledge, where a lot that end of game execution stuff is rope for them.

“They’ve been through it before. We don’t have that. … We got to really work hard and be conscious of what are the little details of what’s going to be important for us to win games.”

The Nets have continued to try and build chemistry amid change after change to their roster. The Nets were without Seth Curry for three games, Kyrie Irving has been eligible for just five games since Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and Goran Dragic joined the team due to his vaccination status and they have continued to deal with injuries.

All of that has made it hard for the team to build the chemistry they’d like to have before the postseason, thus making the next few weeks pretty important.

“For us, it’s just having that sense of urgency,” Drummond said. “Some of these teams have been together five, six, seven years and we’ve been together for about 8 games, some of us at least. So I think for us, it’s about taking each and every possession, every practice, every shootaround, every day we’re together, having that sense of urgency knowing that we have 11 games left to do what it takes to put ourselves in position to get to the finals.”

The Nets will face the Jazz before embarking on a two-game road trip that will take them to face the Western Conference powerhouse Memphis Grizzlies and then to South Beach to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat. They’ll return to Barclays Center on Sunday for a meeting with the Charlotte Hornets, who are nipping at the heels of the Nets in the standings.

“We’re going to be really tested here this week playing excellent teams. Really having a much smaller room for error, so that’s good,” Nash said. “Being stretched and pushed and tested is good for our group to see how we respond. These are important tests for us so (when) we get to a playoff environment we’ve been through a few things, played some good teams. That’s the type of, I think, kind of training ground that this group needs to get further along the road when the lights come on and we play in the play-in game.

“But after that, still, we can’t go and say if we get through this week, we’re playing poor teams, that’s not the case.”