MIAMI - No need for a philosophical dissertation, one that delves deep into the mental psyche of a team that's lost five in a row and threatening to fade into irrelevancy over the next few weeks.

Joe Johnson broke down the Nets' plight simplistically.

"Shoot, we've got to get a win," Johnson said after practice Friday. "That's it."

In trouble of finding themselves home when the playoffs begin next month, the Nets are at the crossroads of their season. Just 12 days ago, they were sitting on the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Going into Friday night, they were 31/2 games behind the eighth-place Heat.

Foundering badly and continuously digging out of cavernous deficits, it's certainly been a head-scratching stretch. But they insist they aren't a beaten group, contend they aren't about to give up on a campaign in which they are a season-worst 13 games below .500.

"We are good," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "We have good spirit. We haven't quit."

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"We've just got to stick with it," Brook Lopez said. "I think we've had better energy the past couple. We just need to keep improving. I think our fight's there. We just need to execute when it comes down to it. Not turn it over as much and just keep playing together. We've got to stick together."

If that doesn't happen in these next two games, then the Nets surely will have no one to blame but themselves. In facing the 76ers on Saturday night before meeting up with old friend Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves on Monday in Minneapolis, the Nets are squaring off against a pair of teams sporting two of the NBA's three lowest winning percentages.

Only the 13-win Knicks have fewer victories than Philadelphia and Minnesota, meaning it's essentially now or never for the Nets, particularly since they end this four-game, six-day road stretch against LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

"Well, we've got to beat the teams we are supposed to beat," Lopez said, "be competitive and give ourselves a shot against great teams."

Digging in defensively would be a start. During their five-game slide, the Nets yielded 104.4 points per game -- a differential of minus-12.7 points -- and allowed the opposition to shoot 47.4 percent.

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Offensively, they've turned it over an average of 15.2 times. There hasn't been enough flow and it's led to too much stagnation at times, a direct result of a lack of sufficient ball movement.

"We've just got to get back to that -- sharing the ball, speeding the tempo up," said Alan Anderson, who will play Saturday night after sitting out Thursday's loss to the Heat with a bruised tailbone. "With Thad [Young] on the smaller 'four,' we are quicker. So we've got to use that to our advantage more. And we've got to guard. We've got guard and rebound a lot better than we have been.

"Our communication isn't the best consistently. Sometimes it's sporadic, but consciously, it has to be a lot more than just every other quarter. It has to be every play, you know what I mean?"

Notes & quotes: The Nets announced Sergey Karasev had successful right knee surgery Friday to repair the damage caused by the patellar dislocation he suffered Tuesday night. He's expected to be ready for training camp.