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The Nets are off and running, 18 straight days on the road

MARCUS HENRY Special to the AmNews | 3/18/2013, 12:57 p.m.
The Nets are off and running, 18 straight days on the road

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The Nets are off and running, 18 straight days on the road

It's crunch time. This is the part of the season when teams start to tighten up their rotations and make plans for the playoffs.

The Nets are all but assured a playoff berth for the first time since the 2006-2007 season, but the Nets haven't played like a playoff team lately. Tuesday night's 108-98 win over the New Orleans Hornets was the perfect example. The Nets had serious trouble slowing down the Hornets, who shot 51 percent from the field and had five players in double figures. Offensively, Deron Williams (21 points, 13 assists) and Brook Lopez (26 points, 5 rebounds) continued their torrid play, but the defense was absent at times.

Defensive lapses need to become a thing of the past, with the Nets set for a monster road trip next week. Beginning Monday, the Nets will embark on the "Circus Trip." They will hit eight cities and play eight games in 18 days while Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus puts on 23 shows at the Barclays Center March 18 through April 1.

It's the type of road trip no team wants to see late in the season, but the Barclays Center events schedule is forcing the NBA to schedule the Nets' games this way.

Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo did find a couple of positives about the trip. In addition to a four-day layoff his team will get before Sunday's home game against Atlanta, the Nets will have ample free time during the 18-day trip.

"The way the trip is spaced is the only good thing about it," said the coach. "We can take some days on the trip and practice on the trip."

Is it a make-or-break trip? It is if the Nets go 0-8 or 1-7, but if the squad can manage a respectable 5-3 or 6-2 record, the final stretch run in April will be exciting.