Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett seem to be finally rubbing off on the Brooklyn Nets.
Improved defensive play is also having an impact.
The veteran duo will try to help the Nets extend their winning streak to four games Friday night against the sputtering Detroit Pistons.
Brooklyn (8-14) has been a major disappointment so far, and the blockbuster offseason trade that landed Pierce and Garnett from Boston seemed to be a major reason why.
That appears to be changing, though, as the two veterans have found a groove while the Nets have tightened their defense. They have won three games in a row, holding opponents to an average of 90.3 points and 40.8 percent from the floor - a vast improvement from the 103.4 points per game and 46.3 percent shooting they allowed prior to that stretch.
That strong defensive play continued in Thursday's 102-93 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Pierce totaled 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Garnett's impact went beyond his two points and six boards. The veteran forward played inspired defense on Blake Griffin, limiting him to 12 points - almost nine below his season average.
The performances seemed to provide a spark for the Nets.
"We hope so. I think our experience, our competitiveness, our leadership, hopefully can rub off on everybody," Pierce said. "We're starting to see signs of that, and that's what we're here for."
Brooklyn may be looking for a similar response against the Pistons (10-13) after losing 109-97 at home to them Nov. 24, despite getting 19 points from Pierce.
Joe Johnson scored 34 in that meeting, hitting 8 of 10 from 3-point range and 12 of 18 overall. The guard was 4 of 7 from long range and scored 21 versus the Clippers.
Brook Lopez is averaging 24.0 points over the past four games despite being held to 16 on Thursday. He missed the latest meeting with Detroit due to a sore ankle, and he's averaged 21.3 points in seven career road matchups, with the Nets winning the past two.
Brooklyn cruised to a 119-82 victory in its most recent visit to Detroit on March 18, when Deron Williams led the way with 31 points.
While the Nets are surging, the Pistons are struggling defensively during their three-game slide. Opponents have averaged 114.0 points on 49.4 percent shooting, including 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Their woes continued Wednesday, falling 111-106 in overtime at New Orleans while being outrebounded 51-43.
"It's on Greg (Monroe) and I to figure it out. We can't continue to let guys come in our paint and do those kinds of things to us," center Andre Drummond said. "It's a building process and we're going to figure it out. It's not going to happen for too long."
Drummond is doing his part, leading the team with an average of 12.7 rebounds while adding 13.1 points per game. He had nine points and 10 boards at Brooklyn last month, while Rodney Stuckey had a season-high 27 points.
Stuckey scored 20 against the Pelicans after missing two games with a sore knee.
Monroe, who had 28 points and 10 boards Thursday, is averaging 19.6 and 9.8, respectively, over five career home meetings with the Nets.
The Associated Press News Service
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