NEW YORK (AP) — Despite dealing with a coaching change, the Brooklyn Nets are in the midst of a strong stretch.
To win six straight games for the first time in nearly seven years, they’ll have to end Indiana’s own four-game streak on Sunday in Brooklyn.
Making things tougher, the Nets (21-15) might be without Deron Williams, who is the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, after he suffered a thigh contusion in Friday’s 99-79 win over Phoenix.
That victory marked Brooklyn’s third straight by 20 or more points, the first time the franchise has accomplished that in its NBA history. The Nets are 7-1 since firing Avery Johnson and naming P.J. Carlesimo interim coach on Dec. 27. They had lost five of six before letting Johnson go.
“I think we went through some bumps and some rough patches, you know, which taught us,” Williams said. “We are jelling a little bit more now.”
While Williams is listed as questionable, Gerald Wallace has already been ruled out with bruised ribs. Wallace, who averages 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, landed hard when Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker contested his dunk attempt in the first quarter. Replays showed Wallace landing on his right arm and shoulder but the team said that X-rays were negative.
MarShon Brooks was the primary replacement for Wallace and answered the call, scoring a season-high 17 on 5-of-9 shooting.
Brooklyn shot 6 of 13 from 3-point range in what was another improved offensive performance under Carlesimo. The Nets, who haven’t won six straight since a 14-game run from March 12-April 6, 2006, are averaging 102.4 points with Carlesimo in charge, up from the 94.5 they scored in the first 28.
They’ve also held five of eight opponents under Carlesimo to fewer than 94 points, and limited Washington to 93 in regulation before taking a 115-113 double-overtime win on Jan. 4.
“We have just bought into what P.J. wants us to do on both ends of the floor,” said Joe Johnson, who scored 19 despite being ill. “We are trying to get back to being defensive-minded and being the team we were when the season first started.”
The Pacers (23-14) have won six of seven after a 96-88 home victory over Charlotte on Saturday. They were without leading scorer Paul George (16.9 ppg) due to illness, but are hopeful he will rejoin the team in Brooklyn.
Early on against Charlotte, Indiana – already the league’s second-lowest scoring offense at 91.1 points – appeared as though it could struggle without George, falling into a 10-1 deficit. But David West registered his first triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, George Hill scored 19 and D.J. Augustin added 18 off the bench while playing nearly twice as many minutes as his average.
“We need Paul,” Hill said. “But just like everyone else in Indianapolis is getting sick, it bit him too. We hope he has a speedy recovery but D.J. did a great job stepping in.”
Aside from George being Indiana’s best scorer, the Pacers would also like to have him because of his recent success versus the Nets. He’s averaging 19.5 points while shooting 28 of 42 from the floor (66.7 percent) over his last four contests against them.
Indiana has won 13 of the teams’ last 15 meetings.
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