Brooklyn Nets guard Lonnie Walker IV, front right, controls the...

Brooklyn Nets guard Lonnie Walker IV, front right, controls the ball between Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Williams Jr., left, and forward Ziaire Williams (8) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill) Credit: AP/Brandon Dill

Like most of the Nets, Lonnie Walker IV understands the importance of these next two games. He also thought it was fitting that the Nets get to control their destiny back at home.

Four of their last five games, all on the road, were defeats by 15 points or more. So with two games at home against the Hawks starting Thursday, Walker said it was fate that Barclays Center is where this season can either stay afloat or go awry with the Hawks four games ahead of them for the final spot in the play-in tournament.

“I would say the stars are kind of aligned. It's right there,” Walker said Thursday at shootaround. “So it's entirely up to us to really take this opportunity and run with it and start getting a couple of wins and stacking our days and stacking the games on and on.”

A key to doing that is cutting down the turnovers. Much has been made of the Nets’ poor defense under interim coach Kevin Ollie, but it’s also been aggravated by uncharacteristic mistakes. The Nets are seventh in the NBA in turnovers per game, yet had a season-high 20 against the Magic and 19 against the Raptors after the All-Star break.

They allowed 29 points off turnovers in Orlando, just behind the season-high 32 they gave up in Toronto.

It’s another thing that can be chalked up to miscommunication while learning a new offense. However, the players blamed themselves for being careless, not confused.

“That’s just being lazy with the ball and not taking care of the ball,” Nic Claxton said Tuesday. “I wouldn't say that's the reason that we’re turning the ball over. I can't put that on adjustments or anything.”

Added Dorian Finney-Smith on Thursday: "As a team, we're the ones out there. Regardless of whatever plays Coach calls, we got to handle the ball better. And that's something we can control, you know? Turnovers and our energy. That's stuff that the five on the court can control.”

Being careful with the basketball is even more important when facing the Hawks, who have one of the league’s worst defenses. Despite being second-to-last in points allowed (124.2), the Hawks are eighth-best in opponent turnovers per game and ninth in points off turnovers.

The Nets can’t afford to be sloppy at home, especially when these games will determine the rest of their season. They’re already struggling to score, even when players say that Ollie has tried to simplify things on offense.

With Cam Thomas out because of a right ankle/midfoot sprain, the Nets’ margin for error on offense is even slimmer.  It puts more of a premium on taking care of the ball and not giving the Hawks easy points.

“I look at it like a playoff series,” Finney-Smith said. “Whatever happens tonight, I'm pretty sure both teams are going to make adjustments and see how it goes from there.”

By Saturday, the Nets will know whether they have a realistic or long-shot chance to reach the play-in tournament with 22 games left.

 The Nets know they can’t fumble their chance with turnovers, on top of fighting through their slew of lingering issues.

“We’re trying to be very disciplined and very aware of the game plan knowing what we have to do,” Walker said. “Because every possession for this game counts . . . We can’t have no missteps or nothing. So we all got to be aligned and understand what we're trying to do.”

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