Caris LeVert and the Nets look to rebound after loss...

Caris LeVert and the Nets look to rebound after loss to Wizards.  Credit: AP/Luis M. Alvarez

ATLANTA — If the Nets’ internal alarms aren’t going off, they should be. After a 10-game stretch in which they posted a 7-3 record and appeared primed to climb higher in the Eastern Conference, the seventh-place Nets suffered consecutive losses to the Magic and Wizards, the two teams immediately behind them in the playoff race, and are clinging to a half-game advantage over Orlando.

The great baseball philosopher Satchel Paige once advised, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” That’s exactly where the Nets (26-31) find themselves heading into the final three games of a four-game trip, including Friday night against the lowly Hawks (17-43) at State Farm Arena before traveling to Miami Saturday night and Boston Tuesday night to play the third and fourth seeds.

“I think we all know we have to pick it up,” said DeAndre Jordan, who had 16 points and 16 rebounds in Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards. “This is about seeding and teams fighting for playoffs. This is an important time in us getting ready for the postseason if that’s where we’re going to be. We’ve got to win games like this, not only against the Wizards but against other teams.”

Just two games ago, it seemed there was no question whether the Nets would make the playoffs. It was whether they could pass the Pacers for sixth or even the 76ers for fifth. But after giving up 74 points and a 19-point lead in the second half against the Magic and digging an 18-point second-quarter hole against the Wizards thanks to brutal turnovers coach Kenny Atkinson described as “infantile,” it seems the Nets have lost focus.

“We’ve got to stay positive,” said Jordan, hinting at a sense of how easily things can spiral out of control. “We can’t beat each other up. But we definitely need to have some constructive criticism and more film sessions about it, and we do that. But that’s on the players more so. It’s on us. We’ve got to police each other a little better.”

Last season, the Nets held a players-only meeting in December that righted the ship and sent them on their way to a surprising 42-40 finish and a sixth seed. But this is a new group, and superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are out for the season. Now, it’s up to veterans Jordan, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler and young core players such as Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris to lock in for the stretch run.

“We’ve got three more games on this road trip, all winnable, and we’ve got to get them,” Temple said. “Obviously, there’s a push for playoffs. Maybe it’s two minutes you lose focus. As vets, we’ve got to pick everybody back up, talk, communicate. Communication solves a lot of problems.”

Dinwiddie denied the Nets are feeling pressure to make the playoffs, and he warned, “Never overreact.” At the same time, they all watch the standings. “After All-Star break, you kind of have to start doing that,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s going to play more of a factor in how we wind up the season. These are two bad losses for those reasons.”

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