In their first chance at clinching a playoff berth, the Brooklyn Nets put together a major dud with virtually their entire lineup.
They hope to turn in a significantly improved showing and clinch a playoff spot Friday when they face the Sacramento Kings near Orlando.
The Nets (32-36) are 2-2 inside the bubble, and their two defeats have been blowouts. After opening the restart with a loss to Orlando last Friday, the Nets posted wins over Washington and Milwaukee.
The three-point win over the Bucks on Tuesday was achieved without Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, and the follow-up was a complete letdown. The trio returned, and the Nets lost control of the game late in the first quarter en route to a 149-115 loss to the Boston Celtics.
LeVert, Allen and Harris combined for 83 points Sunday against Washington, but on Wednesday, they were held to 38 points. The Nets also allowed the Celtics to make 20 3-pointers and shoot 57 percent from the field.
"As far as level of urgency, I feel like we need to have that each and every night," LeVert said. "Obviously, it would have been nice to secure that spot tonight, but there's always another opportunity. Friday's another day, another opportunity for us to go out there and compete for a full 48 minutes as a team. I think we'll be ready for that task."
Even with their worst performance since play resumed, the Nets remain in a good spot. They are a half-game up on eighth-place Orlando and will clinch their second straight postseason berth with their own win or a loss by Washington, which is playing New Orleans on Friday.
The Nets may be short-handed again Friday.
They will be without Jamal Crawford (left hamstring strain), who was injured Tuesday and could be without Allen (sprained left ankle) and Harris (left groin contusion), who are listed as questionable.
While the Nets are on the verge of clinching, Sacramento (29-39) still faces an uphill climb.
The Kings are tied with New Orleans in the standings and are 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis, with Portland, Phoenix and San Antonio also in better position. A team must be in ninth place and within four games of eighth place to force a play-in series.
Sacramento is 1-3 since the restart after going 10-5 in its final 15 games before the pause on March 11.
The Kings picked up their first win on Thursday, scoring 49 points in the first quarter and shooting 53.8 percent in a 140-125 win over New Orleans.
"We are still in it," Kings coach Luke Walton said. "You never know. We've got four more games, and there's a big group of teams right there, so we're playing to win these (games) and trying to give ourselves the best chance to get into a playoff, and I thought today was a good step forward."
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 35 points after going 1 of 15 from the floor in Tuesday's 114-110 overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks. He delivered his career game after going a combined 5 of 28 in Sacramento's losses to Orlando and Dallas.
De'Aaron Fox added 30 points Thursday and continued to play well since the restart. In Sacramento's first four games, he is averaging 26.8 points.
Friday will be Sacramento's final game against an Eastern Conference opponent. The Kings finish up the season against the Houston Rockets, Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers.
--Field Level Media