The Brooklyn Nets haven't lost since P.J. Carlesimo took over as interim coach, but the competition is about to get much tougher.
After dispatching a pair of lowly foes, the Nets open a daunting stretch trying to earn a rare victory over the surging San Antonio Spurs, who will seek a season-high sixth consecutive win.
After losing 10 of its first 13 games this month, Brooklyn (16-14) fired Avery Johnson on Thursday and promoted Carlesimo, who has more than 200 wins as an NBA head coach.
The Nets have responded well since the change with a 97-81 win over Charlotte on Friday and a 103-100 victory over Cleveland the next day.
Brook Lopez had a season-high 35 points and 11 rebounds against the Cavaliers, and is averaging 27.3 on 62.0 percent shooting over the last three games. The center averaged 14.7 points on 42.2 percent shooting in his first six games back from a sprained right foot.
"This can start something, so for us to get these two wins, we've got a little confidence going on the road," swingman Joe Johnson said. "We'll ride this confidence into San Antonio and try to get us another win."
After facing two seven-win teams at home, the Nets will open a three-game road trip against a pair of division leaders, San Antonio (24-8) and Oklahoma City (23-6). Carlesimo was a former assistant to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and led the Thunder for 13 games in 2008-09, going 1-12.
In the first of those reunions, Carlesimo and the Nets will face a Spurs team that has outscored its last four opponents by an average of 22.2 points. In Sunday's 111-86 win over Dallas, Tony Parker had a team-best 21 points and Manu Ginobili contributed 20 off the bench as San Antonio shot 50.6 percent.
"I liked the focus of this team," Parker said. "From the get-go, we moved the ball, took good shots and played great defense."
When it returns from Dallas, San Antonio will try to secure a ninth consecutive win at the AT&T Center and its 10th straight home victory over the Nets, including the postseason. Brooklyn's last road win over the Spurs was on June 6, 2003, in Game 2 of the NBA finals.
San Antonio has also prevailed in 17 of the last 18 regular-season matchups, and took a 103-89 victory in the lone meeting last season on Feb. 11.
The Nets' Deron Williams had 27 points in that home game, but only three others reached double digits in a 40.2-percent shooting performance. The Spurs, meanwhile, shot 52.5 percent and had six players in double figures.
Lopez missed that game because of an injured right foot but his presence might not have made too much of a difference. He's been held to a combined 24 points on 34.5 percent shooting (10 of 29) in his past two matchups.
Williams, a former high school star in Texas, is averaging 25.8 points in his last four games against the Spurs.
San Antonio starting guard Gary Neal, who scored a team-best 18 points in last season's meeting, has missed the past three games because of a strained right calf.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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