Every NBA season, fringe playoff teams reach a point where they must decide between digging deep or packing it in. For the Brooklyn Nets, it came at the All-Star break, with general manager Sean Marks firing Jacque Vaughn and promoting Kevin Ollie to interim head coach.

Marks – who spoke of making Brooklyn a “destination” for marquee players again – made the move with a playoff push in mind. However, his team has continued its free fall since the change. The Nets are 2-4 in their last six games with losses to the Luke Kennard-led Memphis Grizzlies, nine-win Detroit Pistons, and 17-win Charlotte Hornets.

Following the disheartening stretch, leading scorer Cam Thomas called out the team's inconsistent effort, per the New York Post's Brian Lewis.

“At a point in time, you just gotta stop saying it and we’ve just got to do it at some point,” Thomas said Saturday. “What is it game 66 or whatever this is? And we're still talking about effort? That’s a problem. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get it done.”

While the Nets' offensive limitations (21st in effective field goal percentage this season) bleed into their defense, the hustle numbers aren't indicative of a team fighting for its playoff life.

Over the last six games, Brooklyn ranks 22nd in opponents' second-chance points and 18th in opponents' fastbreak points. Diving deeper into the hustle stats, they rank 21st in deflections, 25th in loose balls recovered, 26th in charges drawn, and 22nd in box outs.

“Our margin of error is small, and we have to make shots, but that can’t be deciding our energy and effort on defense,” Ollie said following Wednesday's loss to the Orlando Magic. “We’ve got to have guys stand up and look in the mirror and get better, and be vocal leaders and understand when we go through a period where we’re not making shots, we still believe and we’re talking to each other, and we can’t go mute in those times. And that was my message.”

The Nets don't have time to be speaking in cliches about effort with their season slipping away. With the Atlanta Hawks dropping two winnable games to the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz this week, Brooklyn sits three games back of the Eastern Conference's final play-in spot with 16 contests remaining.

“You just gotta keep demanding it and you gotta keep letting them know that that's how we win games,” Ollie said of Brooklyn's hustle. “I see it in them, it's just the consistent part of it and bringing it out of them. The toughness part of it, that's who we have to be. I just want them to keep looking in the mirror… That has to become our identity. We just can't win no other way.”

“I'm gonna keep demanding it and hope they still see some light at the end of the tunnel because the season's not over with…That's where I'm at, and hopefully, we see more effort moving forward.”

Brooklyn will be back in action this weekend for a potential season-deciding back-to-back against the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.