After the Brooklyn Nets fell to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night and extended their losing streak to a season-high four games, the team tried to focus on the silver lining: This is all preparation for the challenges it expects to face in the playoffs.
"I think it's good we have those tests now," Kyrie Irving said. "Those challenges, you know. It's been too easy at times. So, it's good."
The Nets' losing streak includes a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at home, two close losses to the Milwaukee Bucks in Fiserv Forum and Thursday's 113-109 loss in Dallas. The Nets hung in the game until the fourth quarter, helped by a season-high 45 points from Irving. But Kevin Durant struggled to find his shot in the second half, shooting just 1-of-10 from the field.
All 10 of Durant's second-half shots were contested, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
"I feel like if I would have made them," Durant said, "I would've settled the team down. ... I'm glad it's happening now for us instead of in a couple weeks, and hopefully we build off of this and keep growing, and I hope we feel this pain, I guess, from losing, feeling like we're not where we want to be."
Still, Durant said he "likes the position" they are in as a team, adding, "I think it is going to make us better."
The Nets have six games remaining in the regular season to iron out the kinks before the playoffs. With the loss to the Mavericks, the Nets are now 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. While Brooklyn is a half-game up on the Bucks in the standings, it is also now tied with Milwaukee in the loss column. The Bucks own the series tiebreaker, leaving room for the possibility that the Nets slip to the third seed.
"You know, we're not a perfect basketball club," Irving said. "I don't think we'd be doing ourselves a great service if we weren't honest. You know, we haven't played well in terms of spurts throughout the game, especially when it matters."
Coach Steve Nash said that because the Nets don't have a deep, shared history from years of playing together, he believes that having to play through some difficulties will aid the team in their playoff run. While he said they would have clearly preferred to beat Dallas and move closer to sealing one of the top two seeds in the conference, being tested has its benefits.
"We have no common experiences together in that setting," Nash said. "And so these are a little bit of a dress rehearsal, when you're playing playoff teams, teams that need wins that are really coming out to try to win these games and play at a high level. So it was good for us."
Still, Durant made it clear that Brooklyn needs to right the ship, and sooner rather than later.
"Losing sucks," Durant said. "I mean, no matter what time of year it's in, no matter who it's against. I mean, I've been feeling the same way about losing since I was 8 years old, since I started playing. So, it's always been about get up the next day and go back to work."