Starting five: Tough week ahead

The reeling Nets have lost five straight games and eight of their last nine.

Tonight, they play against Atlantic Division-leading Toronto. There's a chance things might get worse before they get better for the Nets (3-10).

It's not that the Raptors (6-7) are unbeatable. But the Nets won't have Brook Lopez (ankle) and Deron Williams (ankle). Andrei Kirilenko (back) remains sidelined, and Jason Terry has been nursing a bruised knee. And the problem is, the Nets don't know with certainty when Lopez and Williams will be back in the lineup. It's in the Nets' best interest to make sure they come back strong and healthy instead of risking any setbacks that really could set their season back even more.

So with only one practice this week -- that took place on Monday without those four injured players mentioned above and Shaun Livingston (who missed practice but is probable to play tonight with a head contusion) -- the Nets potentially could be without their four injured key players for the entire week.

That could mean the Nets have to play two pairs of back-to-backs -- against the Raptors and Lakers, then at Houston and Memphis -- without four of their top-eight players.

"We know we’re not healthy and we don’t expect those guys back for [tonight]," Jason Kidd said on Monday. "We haven’t won so that definitely can affect us [mentally], but coming to work today to get better is something that we did and going on the road, we’ve got to find a way to get a win."

The Nets play three of the next four games on the road. Is it possible that Lopez and/or Williams could be back at some point this week? Yes. But even when they do return, there will be an adjustment period.

After the Nets complete a difficult back-to-back in Houston and Memphis on Saturday, they won't play again until next Tuesday at home against Denver. That will be followed by a game against the Knicks at home next Thursday -- a rivalry game that will feel like a must-win if both teams are still struggling.

So the Nets could hold their injured stars out until next week and give them more time to heal. We will have to see. But the more the Nets lose, the more pressure Lopez and Williams may feel to return.

Up now: Despite the Nets' disappointing start, team ownership has Kidd's back with Brooklyn dealing with several injuries and other mitigating factors.

Here's why Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have to lead the Nets out of this funk.

D-Will talks about how frustrated he is with all these ankle injuries.

Joe Johnson's solution for the Nets' third-quarter woes? Don't speak it into existence anymore.

Net fact: Don't tell Joe, but today's fact is the Nets' awful third-quarter play. So far, they are being outscored by 5.2 points per game in the third quarter, worst in the NBA according to NBA.com.

What's next: Nets play the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors tonight in Toronto. Good chance to start making up some ground in a division that is totally up for grabs.

Net question: What would you do this week with two pairs of back-to-backs: Would you be cautious and rest Brook and D-Will for the week and have them come back next week? Or bring them back at some point this week if they are good to go? Let us know.