BROOKLYN, N.Y.—For much of the regular season, the Brooklyn Nets toiled away in relative obscurity, cast aside on an island in the middle of the Eastern Conference. They were never so far removed from the postseason that they became a laughingstock, but they never quite seemed in it, either.
That changed near the end of the regular season, as the Nets played their way through a stretch in which they won eight of 10 games and became a real threat at the bottom of the crowded East. But, over the course of two games, all they fought for has reverted back to mush and Brooklyn now sits in a familiar position: on the fringe of the playoff picture.
The Nets came into Monday night's 113-86 blowout loss against the Chicago Bulls on the heels of an equally painful defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. Armed with the opportunity to control its own destiny and overtake the Indiana Pacers for the final playoff spot, Brooklyn couldn't muster the necessary performance and those hopes came crashing down.
The Nets are now left waiting for the Pacers to complete their own misstep, should one occur. Nets guard Deron Williams isn't sure if he'll watch the Pacers play against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, but he knows what led to two losses that could prove to be the death knell in his team's season.
"We went against two good defensive teams," Williams said after Monday's game. "And we've struggled against the solid defensive teams, where they load up and we haven't moved the ball. You can't just play pick-and-roll and shoot against teams like this. That's what they want you to do. You gotta try to spread them out, try to get the ball to the other side and play second, third options, make them guard for a full shot clock, and we didn't do that.
"We just came down and fired shots and didn't pass out of double teams—every one of us, myself included," Williams continued. "We were all selfish tonight. For us to win, we can't play like that."
The Nets hung around for two quarters and withstood a second-period run keyed by Derrick Rose to head into halftime trailing the Bulls, 57–50. But they soon dropped behind after being outscored 30–15 in the third quarter. The rout was on, and there was nothing the Nets could do about it.
The Nets shot 36.8% from the field and 25% from the three-point line, committing 10 turnovers and completing only 12 assists. There was little positive to pull from their performance, and Williams was aware of that.
"There's really no explanation, no excuse," Williams said. "This was just another game where we came across a good defensive team and we decided we wanted to do everything off the dribble and on our own, and it didn't get me any assists. You really can't win like this, when you're not sharing the ball, playing the way that we've had success."
The Nets (37-44), who sit at ninth in the East, have one game left, against the Orlando Magic. They could make things interesting with a win, but the Pacers must drop one of their final two games for the Nets' effort to matter.
"It's our fault, we put ourselves in this position," Williams said. "It was looking really good for us and everybody was happy, and now it's kind of the opposite. But we just gotta be positive, as positive as we can in this situation and just get the one on Wednesday."