NEW YORK (AP) – The New Jersey Nets haven’t won three straight games in nearly two years, and their recent history against the Indiana Pacers suggests that stretch may continue.
With Indiana reeling, New Jersey may be in prime position to change that.
The Nets look to build on momentum from a 4-1 homestand Friday night when they visit the Pacers, losers of six straight.
New Jersey (14-32) has lost four in a row and seven of eight against Indiana, but the streaking Nets seem to be playing with a different mentality since owner Mikhail Prokhorov ended trade talks for Denver’s Carmelo Anthony.
New Jersey erased a 16-point deficit Wednesday in a 93-88 victory against Memphis for its fourth win in five games since Prokhorov ordered to end trade talks between the Nets, Nuggets and Detroit Pistons.
“Right now the spirit of our team is at an all-time high, just in terms of all the things we’ve tried to implement and trying to change this culture,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We’re seeing some of the product of our hard work.”
Monday’s 103-101 win against Cleveland surpassed last season’s win total, and New Jersey looks to win three straight for the first time since winning four in a row from Jan. 31-Feb. 7, 2009.
Anthony Morrow scored a team-high 19 points and led a surge off the bench for the Nets, whose reserves outscored the Grizzlies’ 56-12. New Jersey’s starting five scored 37 points and shot only 13 for 40 from the field.
“Boy, they were special,” Johnson said of his bench. “They were really good tonight. Our starters needed a lift. We’ve been talking about our bench and getting their own identity. It was good to see their production.”
Brook Lopez scored 17 points against Memphis, but he averaged 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in Indiana’s four-game sweep of New Jersey last season.
The Pacers (16-26) hope to avoid their first seven-game losing streak since dropping eight straight from Dec. 18-30, 2009.
Indiana gave up a franchise record 16 3-pointers Wednesday in a 111-96 loss to Orlando. Danny Granger scored 27 points for the Pacers, who have lost 12 of 15.
Granger has averaged 24.5 points in his last six against New Jersey.
“We’re sliding right now, and if we don’t stop it soon, we’ll be out of the playoff mix,” Granger said of his team, which has fallen two games behind eighth-place Charlotte for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. “It’s do or die right now for us.”
Tyler Hansbrough scored a career-high 27 points in 30-plus minutes Sunday against Denver, but he was held to only eight points in just over 18 minutes Wednesday. Hansbrough has started the last 10 games, but his minutes continue to fluctuate. He’s averaged 19.6 points and 9.0 rebounds in the five games he has played more than 24 minutes, but only 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds in the 27 he has played less than that amount.
Brandon Rush, who has averaged only 5.5 points in his last six, sprained his left ankle in the third quarter and did not return. His status for Friday is unclear.
© 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.