Nets-Wizards Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 03, 2013
A coaching change seems to have provided a spark for the Brooklyn Nets. A favorable schedule may keep them rolling for at least another week. Coming off a victory over the best team in the NBA, the Nets look to capitalize on a meeting with the league's worst club Friday night as Andray Blatche returns to Washington to face the Wizards. A 3-10 stretch led Brooklyn (17-15) to fire coach Avery Johnson last week, replacing him with P.J. Carlesimo on an interim basis. The Nets have won three of four since the switch, and they have a good opportunity to keep it up with their next four games coming against teams with losing records - Washington (4-26), Sacramento, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Brooklyn may feel ready for any opponent after beating league-leading Oklahoma City 110-93 on Wednesday. The Nets ended the Thunder's 12-game home winning streak and bounced back after drawing Carlesimo's ire following Monday's 104-73 loss at San Antonio. "To be honest, it helped," swingman Joe Johnson said of Carlesimo's calling for improved ball movement and defensive cooperation. "It translated into the game because we were in a spot defensively that we hadn't been in a while. We was talking, communicating, the ball was moving great, guys were getting wide-open shots and it just kind of played into our hands." It certainly seemed to suit Johnson, who had a season-high 33 points while hitting 11 of 19 field goals, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. He had been averaging 13.6 points on 38.2 percent from the floor - 8 of 28 from beyond the arc - over the previous five games. Deron Williams is looking to build on a strong performance of his own. The point guard finished with 19 points, 13 assists and five steals Wednesday after mustering eight points and one assist while making 3 of 11 from the floor against the Spurs. A trip to the nation's capital may keep Williams going strong. He's averaging 23.7 points and 10.7 assists over his last three in Washington, compiling 23 and nine in the Nets' 90-84 win in their most recent visit Dec. 26, 2011. No Brooklyn player may be more motivated for this trip than Blatche. Friday's game marks the first against Washington for the reserve big man, who was waived under the amnesty clause by the Wizards this summer after spending seven seasons with the team. He probably won't get a warm reception after he was booed by the Washington fans last season, when he struggled with injuries and conditioning and shot a career-worst 38.0 percent in 26 games. He's averaging 10.9 points and shooting 48.6 percent off the bench for the Nets. Blatche seemed to poke fun at the Wizards while they were 0-12 in November, saying on Twitter that it "Feels good to be part of a winning organization" as the Nets were 9-4. Washington has lost 11 of its last 12. The struggles continued in Wednesday's 89-81 defeat at Indiana as the Wizards had 19 turnovers. "Until we come together as a group, we're going to have our ups and downs through every game," coach Randy Wittman said. Jordan Crawford continues to be a rare bright spot for the Wizards, leading them with 15.9 points per game. The guard had 20 points and seven assists off the bench against the Pacers in his second game back from a sprained left ankle. He's averaging 20.0 points and 6.1 assists over his last eight contests.
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