Starting Five: Where do Nets stand?

Some Thursday morning thoughts on the Brooklyn Nets following Wednesday night’s 115-111 loss to the Orlando Magic:

• If there was one good thing that came out of it, it was Kevin Garnett asking coach Jason Kidd if he could enter the game in the fourth quarter.

Kidd, clearly wanting to take precaution, said no. But Garnett was really solid in his 17 minutes, scoring five points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out a season-high six assists. Kidd told reporters in Orlando that Garnett could see an uptick in minutes on Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks. The Nets need a healthy Garnett for around 20-25 minutes per game during the playoffs. Wednesday night’s performance -- just his second game back from injury -- was another encouraging step in the right direction.

• Looks as though the Nets have locked up the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs -- meaning they won’t have home-court advantage. Brooklyn (43-35) trails both No. 3 Toronto (46-32) and No. 4 Chicago (46-32) by three games with four games remaining. The Nets have a three-game lead on both No. 6 Charlotte (40-38) and No. 7 Washington (40-38). All four teams hold the tiebreaker over the Nets. Their magic number to start the playoffs on the road is one. Their magic number to clinch the No. 5 seed is two. Even with Kidd likely resting guys from here on out, it would be a major surprise if it didn’t happen.

• The Nets really should’ve beaten the lowly Magic. But their defense was certainly exposed without both Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston. Orlando shot 55.8 percent and got 25 points from Arron Afflalo. You get the feeling that wouldn’t have happened if Pierce and Livingston were available. Regardless, Brooklyn shouldn’t have given up 35 points in the second quarter or an 18-1 run in the frame. It was a typical lull the Nets have had far too often in the second halves of back-to-back sets -- clearly part of the reason they are 6-13 in those games.

Joe Johnson (31 points) had six points in the final minute -- 11 points in the final 3:17. Johnson’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt was blocked by Kyle O'Quinn with nine seconds remaining. Still, Johnson continues to prove time and time again that he’s the team’s go-to guy in the clutch. Since March 1, Johnson is averaging 18.1 points on 50.8 percent shooting. All-Star worthy numbers, no doubt.

Deron Williams, just 6-for-23 from the field with six turnovers in his past two games, looks like he could use some rest. Williams has been playing really well since the All-Star break, but he needs to get back on track before the playoffs begin.

Question: What did you take away from Wednesday night’s loss? Let us know in the comments section below.

In case you missed it: Our Rapid Reaction from Wednesday's loss.

Stat of the day: The Wall Street Journal reports that no NBA team has ever won the title when finishing the regular season with a negative scoring differential. The Nets are minus-46.

Up next: The Nets are off Thursday.