The time is now for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers have 25 regular-season games left before the NBA playoffs begin at the end of April, but in order to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2010, they have to erase the five-game lead the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks have on the seventh and eighth spots in the Eastern Conference.
And that will not be an easy task for the Cavaliers, as five of their next nine games will be against teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today.
"It's going to be tough," said forward Luol Deng. "We're behind. We're not in the playoffs, but we're trying to improve as a team, trying to get everybody healthy, but we've had the sense of urgency since about 10 games ago. We realized the situation, and we've been trying to pick it up.
"Once you start a losing streak, you want to end it as quickly as you can, and that's where we find ourselves right now. Our main focus is to get back into our winning ways and put wins together. We've done it and now, we know how to do it, so we've got to get back to it."
The Cavaliers bridged the All-Star Weekend break with a six-game winning streak, but have since dropped back-to-back contests, 98-91, at Toronto on Feb. 21, and against Washington, 96-83, on Sunday.
"We're in a situation where every game is a playoff game," Deng said. "We've just got to take it a game at a time.
"Last night, we didn't play great, but with eight minutes to go, I think it was an eight-point game. We've got to realize, at home, no matter how the first three quarters went, we've got eight minutes at home, with the fans behind you. We've got to get to the mindset that the fourth quarter is different than the first three quarters. That's still a winnable game."
The Bobcats and Hawks are both 16 games behind the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings, but hold the final two playoff spots. They are 2.5 games up on the Detroit Pistons, who enjoy a 1.5-game lead over the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers and Pistons have two more games against each other, but before those contests at the end of March and middle of April, Cleveland coach Mike Brown knows the margin for error is slim, and that consistency is the key to success.
"Every game we lose, it's slipping away more," Brown said. "Do I still think we have a chance? Yeah, but every time we lose, we're slipping a little more. I think it speaks for itself. Hopefully, we can string some games together and keep fighting for that spot, keep trying to gain ground as opposed to going the other way.
"We've got to find a way to play the game and be consistent on both ends of the floor, no matter who's in uniform. They're all winnable games, and if we can string consistent minutes together, we'll give ourselves a better chance of winning."