They say that the hallmark of a great team is one that is capable of winning the games it is supposed to win.

Brooklyn is talented enough to win the games it’s supposed to win, and they’ve done enough to stay at the top of the East standings, but if they want to compete for an NBA title, they need to figure out how they’re going to win. . those games that do not necessarily have guaranteed winnings.

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The Nets lost Saturday’s game to the Bulls, 111-107, their second loss to their conference rival in the past month. The Nets fell to 16-7 on the season, just half a game against the Bulls and 1.5 games against the Milwaukee Bucks, who have finally regained their team’s health.

Brooklyn hasn’t fared well this season against teams they will likely see in the playoffs. On opening night, they were beaten by the defending champs, they beat the 76ers a few nights later, but have since lost to Charlotte, Miami, Chicago (twice), Golden State and Phoenix.

The Nets are now 0-6 against rival teams. Hardly championship quality.

“It’s very early for this group,” Nets coach Steve Nash said recently. “We have had several guys injured. We have 10 new players. Lots of guys with different backgrounds, different histories, different habits trying to blend in. “

To be fair, Brooklyn probably didn’t expect to be without Kyrie Irving as they braced in the offseason, and Nash has had to struggle and try to figure out his rotations on the fly, but a team with names like Kevin Durant and James Harden on his roster he should still have enough talent to compete with the upper echelon of the NBA.

Harden’s game has been more worrisome this season and tonight he shot just 5 of 21 shots from the field for 14 points with 14 assists.

The nine-time All-Star is averaging 20.9 points per game this season, his lowest production since the 2011-12 season when he was still with Oklahoma. Brooklyn is 9-2 this season when James Harden scores 20 or more points in a game, 5-0 when Harden scores 25 or more points and is just 7-5 when Harden scores fewer than 20 points.

Those numbers are telling: If Brooklyn wants to have any chance of beating rival teams without Irving, it will be crucial for Harden to rediscover the form that earned him an MVP trophy in 2018.

The Nets are now gearing up for a four-game road trip against Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Detroit. While most of them would be guaranteed wins on paper, the Nets have learned that games are not played on paper, but in real-life scenarios.

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