Nets guard Cam Thomas handles the ball against Grizzlies guard...

Nets guard Cam Thomas handles the ball against Grizzlies guard Vince Williams Jr., right, in the first half of an NBA game Feb. 26 in Memphis, Tenn. Credit: AP/Brandon Dill

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With 19 games left entering Saturday, the Nets badly needed reinforcements as they chased the play-in tournament. They got some before facing the Hornets.

Cam Thomas was available after missing six games with a right ankle/mid-foot sprain. Day’Ron Sharpe also was available after missing two games with a right wrist contusion.

Both were sorely missed — along with Cam Johnson — as the Nets struggled in Detroit on Thursday. The Pistons had more gas to finish the race, with a 9-0 fourth-quarter run powering them to a rare win — their 10th — this season.

Adding Thomas’ scoring ability fills the offensive tank that was running near empty. The Nets had to dig deep in their bench, with rookie center Noah Clowney playing 10 minutes Thursday and recent trade acquisition Keita Bates-Diop, who usually plays only in garbage time, playing four minutes in the first quarter.

Neither had much impact. Lonnie Walker had 21 points against the Pistons despite battling an illness that left him hoarse during a halftime interview with YES Network.

While Dennis Schroder has picked up his scoring the last few games, the Nets missed Thomas’ ability to score from anywhere to take the burden off Mikal Bridges, who has struggled as teams have defended him tighter.

“As I said before, it wasn’t that serious. I was fine,” Thomas said at shootaround Thursday. “But just rehabbing it, making sure I’m good enough to play when I feel like I can play out there, play like myself a little bit.”

The Nets need all the help they can get. They woke up Saturday four games behind the Hawks for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. Seven days earlier, they were two games behind the Hawks after defeating them for the second time in three days.

Now they’ve lost ground as the schedule gets tougher and they’re away from Barclays Center for all but one of the next 10 games. The odds are longer for the Nets, who have the fourth-fewest road wins of any team in the East at 9-20.

Needless to say, Thomas’ return comes at a critical time. Especially after another loss to a team like Detroit that has little to play for this season.

“We got to continue to focus on us. It’s an inside job with us,” interim coach Kevin Ollie said on Thursday.

“We got to do the little, small minute things for us to win. We cannot overlook any detail. We just don’t have that margin of error.”

But Thomas alone can’t save the Nets any more than Bridges can. It’s going to take a collective effort defensively similar to what they’ve shown during most of Ollie’s tenure. It’s also going to take cooperation from the Hawks, who’ve made things harder with a three-game winning streak since losing to the Nets.

The schedule also gets tougher after Saturday ends a six-game stretch against sub.-500 teams or teams missing star players.

Six of their next seven opponents have above-.500 records.

The Nets’ play-in hopes are far from dead. But time will tell if Thomas’ return keeps it that way or the Nets’ shortcomings put them in a deeper hole while waiting for the season to be buried.

Notes & quotes: Bridges entered Saturday’s game with the 10th-most made three-pointers in a single season for the franchise.

Bridges has 159 after passing Kerry Kittles (158) on Thursday and is three shy of tying Joe Johnson for ninth. Royce O’Neale is eighth with 163 made threes last season.

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