In truth, the only thing on the Nets' side is the longstanding belief that anything is possible.
Including the virtually impossible.
But after Monday's 102-98 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Nets' playoff chances went to beyond bleak. All-Star Deron Williams missed his second consecutive game, and the Nets hope some additional rest can be a cure-all for his strained right wrist. To pull off such a Herculean task and land a playoff spot would require a fully healthy and able Williams.
But a subpar Williams is only part of why the Nets soon will be denied the playoffs for a fourth straight year. It's big, but not the biggest reason.
Standing eight games out with 13 to play and needing to pass not one but four teams, that's the biggest reason.
"I'm not saying we can't make the playoffs," Williams said, "but it would be a stretch."
Coach Avery Johnson never has spoken in terms of playoffs, discussing the matter only when asked. His goals all year have been improvement, growth and building for the future. But when the postseason was brought up, he acknowledged the difficulty, almost impossibility, of the situation.
"We're still breathing," Johnson said. "If you look at our situation with the playoffs, it's not just Indiana. Charlotte, Detroit, Milwaukee are ahead of us. That's a pretty huge task. It's one we've kind of quietly embraced behind the scenes. But we know we got to win games and a lot of teams got to lose."
PACERS 102, NETS 98: For a second straight game, the Nets blew a double-digit lead and then made a furious comeback that fell short. They were up 12 in the second quarter and then down 11 with 2:10 left in the game. But they closed to within two before failing to execute on several chances to tie. Brook Lopez scored 20 points to lead the Nets.
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