Nets-76ers Preview

The Associated Press

The Brooklyn Nets seem to be gaining some confidence during a soft portion of their schedule.

The key has been their defense - and one of the league's lowest-scoring teams doesn't seem likely to stand in their way.

The Nets will try for their fourth straight victory on Monday night when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers, who have lost 12 of 13.

Brooklyn (37-26) bounced back from a stretch of four losses in five games with wins over lowly Charlotte and Washington before beating slumping Atlanta 93-80 on the road Saturday.

Big men Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche combined for 36 points on 17-of-27 shooting against the Hawks.

"When we're that focused and play with that much attentiveness as we did - not much energy - we can be a really good basketball team,'' said P.J. Carlesimo, who improved to 23-12 since replacing Avery Johnson. "We were a really good basketball team. It's one game, but that's really, really encouraging.''

Now the Nets look to continue taking advantage of a lighter portion of the schedule that next features the lowly 76ers, Southwest-worst New Orleans and the Hawks again before embarking on a season-long eight-game road trip.

Brooklyn, which is just 2 1/2 games out of second place in the East, has been playing some of its best defense of the season during its streak. While the Nets rank near the top of the NBA in points allowed at 94.1 per game, they've limited opponents to 78.7 on 38.2 percent shooting - including 12 of 53 from 3-point range - in their last three.

That doesn't bode well for an offensively challenged Philadelphia team that has averaged 89.0 points while hitting 42.5 percent from the floor in its last 16 games.

After the 76ers (23-39) dropped their fifth straight with a 99-91 loss at struggling Orlando on Sunday, they'll try to avoid their third consecutive defeat in this series. The Nets took the first meeting 95-92 in Brooklyn on Dec. 23 before winning 109-89 at Philadelphia on Jan. 8.

"It definitely hurts to go out there and lose basketball games, but at the end of the day it happens,'' Thaddeus Young said after finishing with 26 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday. "Not every team is going to have a good season. We just have to try and take some positives out of it and just keep trying to figure it out.''

Young had 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Nets in December and has scored 21.5 per game on 42-of-63 shooting in his last four overall.

Jrue Holiday has totaled 43 points on 59.3 percent shooting in the season series, but he's been mired in a slump lately. Holiday, the team's leading scorer at 18.6 per game, has averaged 12.0 points while making 26.7 percent from the field in his last five contests.

Brooklyn's Joe Johnson, who had 22 points in the first meeting, also hopes to bounce back after totaling 14 and missing 16 of 23 shots in his last two games overall.

Deron Williams led the Nets with 17 points on Saturday and had 22 against the 76ers in January. He's scored 25.0 per game in his last six heading into this meeting.

The Nets, who have won five of six on the road, look to extend a three-game winning streak in Philadelphia.

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