The Nets go into another rough stretch of the schedule feeling good about themselves, which isn’t a bad thing. But it’s probably better for them if they don’t feel too good.
Confidence is good. But so is being hungry and looking to prove you’re better than people think you are.
That’s what the Nets were earlier in the season. They seem to have gone away from that. Injuries play a part. The schedule plays a part. But if ever there was a time for the Nets to go back to that, it’s now.
They’ve won three straight games with rookie Brook Lopez establishing himself as a double-double machine, with the ball moving as well as it has all season, with scoring balance and a defensive mindset. These are reasons for the Nets to be confident.
“We’re feeling good about ourselves,” Devin Harris said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Here’s the reality check: The last two wins were against teams decimated by injury. That’s a factor. It doesn’t take away from the Nets did, but it was a factor.
The Nets aren’t going to get that lucky in this little five-game set that is no longer a potential make-or-break because of what they’ve done in the last three.
Had the Nets lost two or even all three prior to this, it could be dire times. By winning them, the Nets are percentage points behind the Bucks for the eighth spot in the East and have a chance to climb higher if they come to play.
Really, that’s what it comes down to at this point, especially after the last time they had a five-game stretch like this.
In January, the Nets were feeling good going into Boston. Not so much when they left: they lost by 30.
The next night, the Nets played no fourth-quarter defense and lost to the Blazers. A couple of days later, they were crushed by the Celtics in the matinee game when Vince Carter and Harris were benched in the second half.
The next two games the Nets came to play, but they were losses still – at New Orleans and San Antonio.
This time, they host Denver, travel to Orlando, play the Spurs and, after the All-Star break, go to Texas to face Houston and Dallas in back-to-back games. There probably are more winnable games in this stretch, but it really is up to the Nets in how they approach each game and how much they want it.
Let’s be honest. The Nets are not better than any of these teams. Each has multiple All-Stars. Each was in the playoffs last season. Each could embarrass the Nets. It’s up to them.
The Rockets already humiliated the Nets and since they trounced the Mavericks in December in Jason Kidd’s return, New Jersey could be walking into a buzz saw in Big D.
Coach Lawrence Frank will have them prepared, but it will come down to desire and execution.
If the Nets play the way they did in San Antonio, they have a shot to win a couple of these games. They fought that night, battled to the end, played as if they were tired of losing.
Even though they’ve been winning, that’s the type of mentality the Nets have to have now. Feel good about the last few games, but not too good otherwise these teams can make you feel pretty bad about yourselves in a hurry.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)