BROOKLYN - The Brooklyn Nets are in a numbers game.
They have 21 games remaining after Sunday night’s 104-89 win over the Sacramento Kings, 21 games to try to overtake the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Those surprising Raptors come to Barclays Center Monday night. If the end of the game is anything like the last time these two played, take the Pepto now.
The Nets (31-30) led that game 103-102 with 10 seconds left. All they needed to do was inbound the ball and the game was probably won.
But as the five-second count got to about four, Deron Williams lost his poise and threw the ball towards Toronto’s basket. Patrick Patterson intercepted the pass and put in a jumper with six seconds left.
The Nets lost, 104-103. Forward Andrei Kirilenko did the math, sort of.
“At the end of the game we just made a mistake,’’ said Kirilenko. “It happens once every, I don’t know, hundred thousand games.’’
The Nets need to be focused on the next four games, beginning with the Raptors. All four opponents – Toronto, Miami, Washington and Phoenix – have winning records.
Only seven of the Nets' last 21 opponents have winning records.
In other words, considering the favorable schedule, the Nets have a great chance to win the division, starting with a win tonight against Toronto.
It will not be easy. Kevin Garnett could return after missing the last five games with back spasms. Coach Jason Kidd said KG looked good on Sunday.
Paul Pierce left the Sacramento game after suffering another stinger in his right shoulder. It marked the second straight game that Pierce has had to leave because of that injury.
Kidd said he was day-to-day.
Kidd gave the same status for Kirilenko, who sprained his right ankle in the first quarter against the Kings but toughed it out until the second half.
“I thought I could keep going, but it obviously just stopped me,” Kirilenko said. “I don’t think it’s a serious injury but it’s still a tweak. I still [have] to take care of it. I assume it’s going to be for a couple days. We’ll see [Monday].”
If Pierce and KG can’t go, the Nets will face the Raptors without their entire projected starting frontcourt. Center Brook Lopez was lost for the season in December after suffering a broken bone in his foot.
“Man, it’s tough,” Joe Johnson said. “It’s kind of been somewhat a tale of our season. We’ve had some consistency throughout the month of January, February. We have to fight with what we’ve got. Hopefully, Paul is able to go tomorrow. We’ll see. If he’s not able to go then other guys have to step up.”