The Brooklyn Nets are in championship-or-bust mode this season, but they have hit a snag with four straight losses following Thursday's 113-109 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.
"It's about time we got tested," Kyrie Irving told reporters when discussing the losing streak:
He also said, "The iso basketball down the stretch is not going to get us over the hump."
Brooklyn is still in fine position at 43-24 and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, but its prospects to capture the top seed are quickly fading. It is 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers and just a half-game ahead of the third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
The isolation plays can also at least partially be explained by the absence of James Harden, who is averaging 11.0 assists per game for the Nets ever since they acquired him from the Houston Rockets.
While Harden has been known as a dangerous isolation player who can drive past defenders, draw fouls and hit step-back threes for much of his career, he has been the primary facilitator in Brooklyn and will surely help the ball movement when he returns.
That it was Irving who called out the iso plays is particularly notable because he shot 31 times on his way to 45 points during Thursday's loss.
Kevin Durant (7-of-21) was the only other member of the Nets who attempted more than 10 field goals, while five Mavericks were in double figures for field-goal attempts.
Irving was at least far more concerned about the team's performance than his individual statistics:
Beating a healthy trio of Harden, Durant and Irving will be a daunting task for any team in the playoffs, and the Nets are better off running into adversity down the stretch of the regular season than in the playoffs.
Still, they have some improvements to make before the postseason.