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NBA playoffs a jump show away, the nets have to pick up the pace

MARCUS HENRY Special to the AmNews | 4/5/2013, 2:17 p.m.
NBA playoffs a jump show away, the nets have to pick up the pace

Whether the Nets finished 5-3 or 4-4 on the "Circus" trip is just a minor thing. The team was in Cleveland last night (Wednesday) and returns home to face Chicago tonight.

The fact that the Nets didn't finish under .500 and maintained their hold on the fourth seed is the important thing. It could have easily been a trip that dropped the Nets as low as sixth. But even though the Nets were able to avoid any real damage to their playoff positioning, Deron Williams wasn't pleased with his team's last two losses to Denver and Utah, respectively. In both games the Nets' defense disappeared, as both Denver (109-87) and Utah (116-107) scored over 100 points.

"With these last two, we're a little disappointed, especially after how well we played in Portland," Williams told reporters. "That tends to happen on the last couple on a long road trip like this."

The Nets began the road trip in positive fashion, winning four of five games. Of course, one issue facing the team is its record against teams better than .500. Only three of their seven opponents had winning records, and the Nets dropped all three of those games. Is it a cause for concern? It shouldn't be, because the Nets won't see any of those teams the rest of the season.

But don't think the fans, media and prognosticators won't notice. The Nets had issues against the upper echelon teams earlier this season and went just 1-5 against teams over .500 in March. After tonight's game against Chicago, the Nets, with just seven games left, face just two teams with a winning record.

There's nothing wrong with fattening up the record late in the season because you want a chance to grab a better seed. But there is the inevitable fact that the Nets will have to square off against the good, and the very good, if they go deep into the playoffs.

No more Clevelands, Philadelphias, Charlottes, Washingtons or Torontos of the world. With the playoffs just two weeks away, it's time the Nets to pick up the pace.