Posted January 14, 2013 on AP on Fox
Solid defense has been the catalyst as interim coach P.J. Carlesimo has helped lead the Brooklyn Nets to their longest winning streak in nearly seven years. He still was an assistant last month when their victory north of the border seemed to ignite the Toronto Raptors. Brooklyn looks to earn a seventh straight victory while defeating visiting Toronto for the third time this season Tuesday night. The Nets (22-15) have won eight of nine under Carlesimo since he took over for the fired Avery Johnson on Dec. 27, including a season-best six straight to mark their longest streak since a 14-game run from March 12-April 6, 2006. Brooklyn held Indiana to 11 fourth-quarter points in Sunday's 97-86 home victory, and opponents are scoring an average of 86.8 points over its last four games. Its bench is averaging 38.8 points during the winning streak after scoring 27.7 per game prior to that. "We defended very, very well,'' Carlesimo said. ''Our defense was great and the bench was fantastic. The defense fuels us.'' It's unclear if Gerald Wallace will be back in the lineup after missing Sunday's contest with bruised ribs suffered in Friday's win over Phoenix. Deron Williams scored 22 points and added nine assists despite playing through a thigh contusion. ''The last time we won five in a row we went (3-10) so this was a big game for us," Williams said. "We needed this game.'' That rough stretch led to Johnson's firing, though one of those few victories Williams spoke of was a 94-88 win at Toronto on Dec. 12 that dropped the Raptors to 4-19. They have since gone 10-4 despite falling 107-96 to Milwaukee on Sunday. Toronto (14-23) has played its last 15 games without Andrea Bargnani (elbow) and nine in a row without rookie starting center Jonas Valanciunas (broken finger), but Ed Davis and Amir Johnson have helped fill those voids. Davis scored a career high-tying 24 points and added 12 rebounds versus Brooklyn last month, matching the totals he had against the Nets in a victory April 26. He has averaged 12.5 points starting in Bargnani's place compared to 6.1 when he comes off the bench. Johnson is averaging 18.3 points and 10.8 rebounds while starting the last four after scoring a season-high 22 points and adding a season high-tying 14 rebounds Sunday. He came off the bench in his previous 32 appearances. "They're both doing an unbelievable job," said Jose Calderon, who had 15 assists against the Nets in December when he began a stretch of 15 straight starts in place of Kyle Lowry after predominantly coming off the bench. "Defense, offense, rebounding - we need them to win games." Johnson has been playing well despite battling a right foot injury, though he couldn't help the Raptors avoid blowing a 20-point lead Sunday. Leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, averaging a career-best 17.9 points, said Johnson's play should inspire the team. "There's no excuse when you're out there on the floor, because (Johnson) walks in here, he can't walk, but I guarantee you Amir will be here and help us pick it up next game," DeRozan said. Lowry missed seven games with a torn triceps - beginning with the Brooklyn matchup last month - and has backed up Calderon for the last eight, but he netted 28 points and added eight assists in a 107-100 loss to the Nets on Nov. 3. Brook Lopez scored 27 points for Brooklyn in that contest.
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