(AP) – The Charlotte Bobcats were among a handful of teams to lose twice to the lowly New Jersey Nets last season, but they have defended Brook Lopez better in two wins in 2010-11.
The Bobcats will look to shut down Lopez again when they try to hand the Nets a 13th straight road loss Friday night.
New Jersey (16-37) lost 70 games last season but went 2-2 against Charlotte (22-30). Only three teams lost to the Nets twice.
Lopez averaged 20.3 points, 51.6 percent shooting and 7.5 rebounds – all close to his career averages – in the 2009-10 season series. It’s been a different story this season, as he’s been limited to 15.0 points, 33.3 percent shooting and 4.0 rebounds by Charlotte.
Both victories this season still didn’t come easy for the Bobcats. They avoided an 0-4 start by rallying from a late 10-point deficit in an 85-83 road win Nov. 3, and blew a seven-point lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation in a 91-84 home victory Dec. 3.
Charlotte has won the rebounding battle by an average of 9.5 in the two wins. Gerald Wallace has double-doubles in his last five games against the Nets, averaging 18.0 points and 14.8 boards.
Rebounding should again be a concern for the Nets on Friday because of Lopez’s season-long problems in that area. The third-year center had a career-high 33 double-doubles last season, but has one in 2010-11 while averaging a career-low 5.6 boards.
The Nets are closing in on matching their longest road skid from last season, a 15-game slide Dec. 11, 2009-Feb. 9, 2010. They ended a three-game losing streak – during which they lost by an average of 13.7 points – with a 103-101 overtime win over New Orleans on Wednesday.
Sasha Vujacic scored a career-high 25 points and Jordan Farmar returned after missing six games with back spasms, contributing eight points and 11 assists.
“They’re one of the best 1-2 guard combinations, we think, coming off the bench in the league, when we’re healthy,” coach Avery Johnson told the Nets’ official website.
The Bobcats suffered a key 104-103 loss at Indiana on Wednesday that dropped them one game behind the Pacers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Charlotte rallied from a 15-point deficit to tie the game with 1:37 remaining.
“We did fight,” interim coach Paul Silas said. “I was very proud of them.”
Stephen Jackson scored 27 points and Wallace added 22, nine rebounds and six assists.
“We played defense, we rebounded, we pushed the ball, and we executed on the offensive end,” Wallace told the Bobcats’ official website. “Our biggest problem was that we waited too late to do all of those things. It’s tough when you’re having to fight back from being behind.”
Points should be at a premium since Charlotte ranks 28th with 93.7 per game and New Jersey is 29th at 92.7.
Updated February 10, 2011