The Brooklyn Nets got off to the best start in franchise history before a disastrous 26-day span in December cost coach Avery Johnson his job. With P.J. Carlesimo now patrolling the sideline, the Nets are back to their early season form.
Brooklyn looks to win for the 13th time in 15 games since Carlesimo was named interim coach as it continues a four-game road trip Friday night with a matchup against the defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies.
The Nets were excited after opening with 11 wins in 15 contests and seeing Johnson named Eastern Conference coach of the month for November, but a 3-10 stretch last month was enough for Brooklyn to make a change.
Carlesimo has re-energized the Nets, who improved to 12-2 under him following Wednesday's 91-83 victory at Minnesota. Brooklyn (26-16), which trails first-place New York by one game in the Atlantic Division, has held opponents to an average of 85.7 points during a three-game win streak.
The Nets also moved to 9-1 when they go with a starting lineup of Brook Lopez - the NBA's highest-scoring center at 18.6 points per game - guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and forwards Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans. Williams and Johnson scored 18 points apiece against the Timberwolves.
"We just have a number of great guys who are very talented individually, and we're just playing well together," said Lopez, who had a game-high 22 points. "That's the best part."
But even with the Nets playing well under Carlesimo, they still have some areas needing improvement. They are averaging 91.0 points and 17.3 turnovers while shooting 42.2 percent during the three-game run.
"We're grateful for the win, but hopefully we realize we need to play a little more consistently than we did (Wednesday)," said Carlesimo, whose team has won five of six away from home.
Brooklyn may not be able to get on track offensively against Memphis (27-14).
The Grizzlies are among the NBA leaders in opponent field goal percentage (43.5) and scoring defense (89.5), and those numbers are even better recently.
Memphis is allowing teams to average 81.5 points while holding them to 40.1 percent shooting in winning three of four following a three-game skid in which it gave up 102.0 points per game and opponents shot 50.9 percent.
But like Brooklyn, the Grizzlies have struggled on the offensive end. They went six straight games without topping 85 points before beating the Los Angeles Lakers 106-93 on Wednesday.
Memphis played for the first time since trading reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to Cleveland on Tuesday for Jon Leuer, a move made to clear about $6 million in salary and get the team under the luxury tax threshold this season.
The Grizzlies dressed only 10 players, and Darrell Arthur provided a spark by scoring a season-high 20 points and tying his season best with nine rebounds in nearly 28 minutes off the bench.
"When we are faced with adversity, we show that we can win," starting guard Tony Allen said. "When adversity comes, when guys get hurt, we pull together."
Memphis avoided a third straight loss in this series with a 105-100 road win last Feb. 15, getting 94 points from its starters.