Despite their dreadful 9-19 start to the season, the Nets have managed to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot thanks to the equally dreadful nature of the entire Eastern Conference, specifically the Atlantic Division.

But over the next three weeks, beginning with Friday night’s game against the Bucks in Brooklyn, the Nets will face seven teams with winning records over their next 10 games — including games against the Pacers, Spurs and Thunder on the road and Warriors and Heat at home.

It’s a stretch that, if this team doesn’t start to play better than it has during its current four-game losing streak — including blowout losses to the Pacers and Bulls after losing Brook Lopez for the season — could easily put the Nets several more games below .500 and make a playoff push, even in the dreadful East, an unlikely proposition.

“Well, our record shows we’re not a good team right now,” Paul Pierce said after Wednesday’s 95-78 loss to the Bulls. “When you’re 9-19, you have a lot of work to do. Our goal is still to improve, but when you’re 9-19, your record speaks for itself.”

The Nets need to improve, and fast, if they want to try and salvage anything out of what, just a few short weeks ago, was the most anticipated season in franchise history. Instead, the Nets have fallen far short of any and all expectations entering the season, which has left them all searching for answers.

Coach Jason Kidd broke character after Monday’s loss to the Pacers, publicly chastising his players for “getting very close to accepting losing.” Then, after another poor performance Wednesday, Kidd reportedly vented his frustrations at the team in the locker room, with his opinion shared by Kevin Garnett.

When Kidd eventually arrived for his postgame press conference, he was asked whether he was surprised by the way his team failed to respond to his public criticism.

“Sometimes it happens, sometimes the response is a little delayed,” Kidd said. “Hopefully we can get that response [against Milwaukee] on Friday, but the big thing is this was a game that we felt that we could win, and once again it gets to 10 and we can’t fight.