DENVER -- The Brooklyn Nets will play their 56th game Thursday night against the Nuggets and it’s not a stretch to say it might be the most important one to date.
It’s time for the Nets to show what they’re made of.
The Nets left Portland with a 44-point loss, their worst of the season.
"It's too damn late in the season to be playing like this," said a defiant Kevin Garnett.
It is. The loss dropped the Nets to 26-29. They have not been able to get their collective head above water since the first month of the season.
They had a chance – a marvelous chance – to get within a game of .500. The Trail Blazers were without All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge and they were playing the second of back-to-back games.
It was never a game. The Trail Blazers, putting seven players in double figures, led by 24 at the half. They won, 124-80.
Coach Jason Kidd went with reserves for the final 18 minutes. He tried to dismiss the loss.
“On a long trip you may have a game like this," said Kidd. “You don’t want to, but it happens, so you have to put this one behind, get ready for Denver."
The Nets sounded like they were ready for Denver (25-31). They were angry, embarrassed, hurt.
"We could be playing the Eastern Conference All-Stars, we shouldn't lose by 40," said veteran forward Paul Pierce.
The Eastern Conference, a weak sister compared to the West, is starting to look a lot tougher for the Nets, who found themselves in seventh place Thursday morning.
The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats are playing better ball of late. The top two teams – Indiana and Miami – will be hard to beat with home court advantage in a first round series.
But it seems (removed ‘a’) foolishly optimistic to be talking about the playoffs after the debacle in Portland.
"It's a little embarrassing for a veteran team like this to get beat by 40," said point guard Deron Williams.
The season is down to 27 games and the Nets need to show some urgency. They were outrebounded (removed comma) 53-29.
They can still finish this six-game road swing with a winning record and return to Barclays Center – their first game in Brooklyn since beating the Bobcats on Feb. 12 - one game under .500.
But it must start tonight in Denver. The Nets have to show that a 44-point loss is unacceptable. They have to take names tonight or their name is mud.
"There’s no way we should be losing by 40 to any NBA team with the guys we got," said Pierce.
What kind of guys do the Nets have? We just might find out tonight.