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Analysis: The road ahead for Nets

3/27/2014

The Brooklyn Nets have 12 games remaining in the season to try to run down the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division title.

The Nets (37-33) trail the Raptors (40-31) and Chicago Bulls (40-31) by 2.5 games for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Nets would love to have home-court advantage in the first round, considering how well they play at Barclays. Only two of their remaining games will be against opponents with a winning record. So the Nets could make ground. It's also vital that they stay healthy in these last two-and-a-half weeks.

Here’s a quick game-by-game look at what’s ahead of the Nets:

March 28: Nets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Nets have lost two straight overtime games, but they return home where they have been unbeatable for the past two months. Jason Kidd’s team will look to improve on its 11-game home winning streak against the Cavs.

Even though Cleveland (29-44) has won three straight, this is pretty much a must-win for the Nets against the Cavs, who will likely be without Kyrie Irving.

March 30: Nets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Nets can’t rebound and now they have to find a way to keep Kevin Love from hauling in 20 rebounds by himself. Kidd’s squad loves playing Western Conference foes and is 12-4 against Western teams since Jan. 1.

The Nets need to take care of business. It would also be nice to see Kevin Garnett (back) play like his old team, if possible.

April 1: Nets vs. Houston Rockets

The Nets will get to prove just how good they are at home against Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Rockets.

If the Nets’ home winning streak is still alive at this point, Houston could snap it. But the Nets have a way of rising to the occasion against Western powers (see above).

April 2: Nets at New York Knicks

The last time these two city rivals played each other, the Nets torched the Garden with 14 3-pointers en route to a 103-80 rout over the Knicks on Jan. 20.

The Knicks will likely need this game badly to stay in the hunt for the eighth spot. The Nets, though, need this win to keep up with Toronto and Chicago.

April 4: Nets vs. Pistons

The Pistons are a nightmare for the Nets, who are 0-3 against Detroit. Detroit has outrebounded Brooklyn by an average of 10.3 rebounds and outscored the Nets by a combined total of 168-98 in the paint. Oh, and Andre Drummond is averaging 15.6 points and 15 rebounds a game against the Nets this season.

The Nets must take full advantage of being at home and put away Detroit, which has nothing left to play for.

April 5: Nets at Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are in full tank mode, though they beat the Nets in overtime in Philly back Dec. 20. The Nets won’t forget that loss since they lost Brook Lopez to a foot injury in that game too.

There will be no excuses, even on the second half of a back-to-back. The Nets must win this game.

April 8: Nets at Miami Heat

The Nets will be well-rested for this one after spending two full days in Miami before playing the defending champs. The Nets are 3-0 against the Heat, winning two meetings by a point each and another in overtime.

The Heat won’t want to be swept by the Nets in the regular season. But Miami could start resting some starters. A fourth-straight win over the defending champs would be another confidence booster for Brooklyn.

April 9: Nets at Orlando Magic

The Magic absolutely crushed the Nets by 21 points back on Nov. 3 in Orlando. All that’s left for the Magic to play for is to build Victor Oladipo’s case for rookie of the year.

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Nets need to take advantage of facing a team with nothing left to play for.

April 11: Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks

Who knows who will be in eighth place in the conference standings at this point, but the Hawks very well could be trying to stave off the Knicks.

The Knicks will be hoping for an assist from Kidd, who should oblige with a home win.

April 13: Nets vs. Magic

The schedule-makers did the Nets a favor by giving them the Magic twice in three games.

Another must-win home game for the Nets.

April 15: Nets vs. Knicks

In the second-to-last game of the season, the Nets get a chance to potentially stick a dagger into the Knicks’ playoff hopes.

With all the things that could be on the line

A playoff spot for the Knicks? Perhaps a division title for the Nets? Maybe even home-court advantage in the playoffs? Or a chance to avoid a potentially undesirable matchup against the Bulls? With all the things that could be on the line, Brooklyn should beat its rival.

April 16: Nets at Cavaliers

The Nets opened the season in Cleveland with a loss, but Kidd didn’t coach in that game due to his suspension. The Knicks could lend the Nets an assist on this night since they are home against the Raptors.

The Nets should win this game, but they have struggled on the road and their playoff fate could already be locked in, win or lose. They also could be in rest mode as well with this being the last of four back-to-back sets in the month.