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Nets' next four games are against playoff-hungry opponents

Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams looks on against

Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams looks on against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half of a game at Barclays Center on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

MINNEAPOLIS - Deron Williams was talking about the Nets' prospects against one of the league's best teams, flashing back to the last time they matched wits with the Cavaliers, when he mentioned Brooklyn's split personality.

"We've had good wins against good teams, so it's not like we can't beat top teams," Williams said after practice Tuesday. "It's just, which team shows up that night for us."

But exactly how do the Nets know which version will show up on any given night?

"You don't," said Williams, "until you go out and ball."

In a nutshell, that perfectly describes these Nets, who would make a yo-yo jealous with their up-and-down play. They're hard to figure out, but the next four games will go far in determining their postseason fate. Beginning with the Cavaliers, they will square off against the Bucks, Pacers and Hornets over the next six days -- teams that are all in the playoff hunt. The Nets are 21/2 games out of a playoff spot.

"Well, we've got to step up to the challenge," Joe Johnson said. "If we are still thinking about the postseason, then we have to beat these teams. There's no way around it. So we will see what happens."

As Williams said: "It's very important, man. We have to win games. We had two wins against the bottom feeders and they are important for us. But the level of competition is going up a notch."

LeBron James is banged up, nursing a sore knee, and his status for Wednesday night is unclear. But even if James doesn't suit up, the Cavaliers anticipate getting Kevin Love back after resting him the last two games and they still have Kyrie Irving, who's playing about as good as anyone in the league of late.

"You've just got to go out and do the best you can," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "They are both great players and they also have Kevin Love, who's going to probably play. They are a good team and we just have to go out and play."

And guard well -- or else. Particularly when it comes to Irving.

"He's one of those guys, once he gets hot it's hard to stop him, especially how good he is in pick-and-roll," Williams said. "Watching that Spurs game [when he scored 57 points], he dissected that pick-and-roll. It's not going to be one person guarding him. It's got to be a team effort."

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