Even though the Brooklyn Nets head into tonight's game against the Sixers as losers of their last three games, it seems that barring anymore major injury setbacks (which, with this aging group, is certainly not a given), they'll be in the playoffs. The Sixers, who have lost two in a row themselves, seem to be heading somewhere towards the top of the lottery unless they continue to play amazingly effective basketball in anything that qualifies as a close game.
Of course, Brooklyn isn't necessarily more relevant than the Sixers in the whole NBA landscape for anything more than this year. But for the 2014 playoffs, they seem to be the one of the few teams with the requisite pedigree and talent to come close to challenging the stranglehold enjoyed by Indiana and Miami atop the Eastern Conference, however far-fetched it seems.
On the court, the Nets largely rode an unorthodox starting lineup that is huge at three positions (Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson) small at one (Paul Pierce), and average at the other (Kevin Garnett) to a 10-1 mark to start 2014. The Nets' collective size allows them to do a few unique things like switch liberally on defense and post-up pretty much anybody on offense. They haven't been as effective as they hoped heading into the season, but with the addition of Garnett and Pierce, this core group seems more prideful than the one that lost to a hobbled Chicago team last year. They'll go down sometime this spring, but it'll be swinging.
In the Nets' last three games, a drubbing at the hands of red-hot Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant sandwiched by one-point heartbreakers to both Toronto and Indiana on the road, they haven't necessarily played that poorly. As long as they have the Sixers at arms length in the fourth quarter, I'd be pretty surprised if Brooklyn didn't get off the schneid tonight.