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Nets return home to host hot Kings

01/05/2013 7:21 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

The Nets come home to play the Kings (13-20) Saturday night after eeking out a double-overtime, 115-113 win over the league's worst team, the Wizards (4-27), Friday night in the nation's capital.

The overtime victory stretched their NBA-best overtime winning streak to eight; their last overtime loss was on Feb. 28, 2011, against the Suns. For the 18-15 Nets, a win is a win. But it definitely got a little too close for comfort. With the victory, Brooklyn is now 4-1 in five games under P.J. Carlesimo and has looked re-energized in the process.

Since Carlesimo has taken over, the key players have taken the reins and stepped up. Brook Lopez, for one, has been a scoring and rebounding machine over the last five games. He's averaging 24.8 points and 9.0 rebounds while posting an impressive .600 field-goal percentage and shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line.

Lopez has posted five 20-plus-point and 10-plus-rebound games in 2012-13, and three of them have been over the last five-game stretch. Before this last five-game run, in his first 21 games, Lopez was averaging 17.5 points and 7.1 boards, while shooting .502 from the floor and .659 from the line.

Joe Johnson has also been a different player. He looks reinvigorated, averaging 18.8 points while shooting .486 from the floor and .867 from the line. In his first 28 games as a Net, he was averaging 16.9 points, while shooting .421 from the floor and .769 from the line. He's also averaging an impressive 1.2 steals per game as opposed to the 0.5 he was averaging before Carlesimo took over. The Nets invariably need Johnson to continue playing like this to rise in the Eastern Conference ranks.

On paper, tonight's Nets-Kings game looks like a lopsided matchup. The Nets are 11-7 at home, while the Kings are a putrid 3-13 away from California's capital. Sacramento has won two straight games on the road, however. It's their longest such win streak on the road since March 2011 when they won three straight games.

The Nets are also dealing with a schedule that with tonight's game will end a six games-in-nine days stretch. And as Carlesimo said, that stretch “got a little tougher last night with the double overtime.”

He also added that guys are, “Banged up, just sore and tired. Tonight's going to be a challenge.”

Kris Humphries has already been ruled out again, and the Nets will be evaluating C.J. Watson, Gerald Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse before the game, with all three listed as game-time decisions.

The Kings come into Barclays Center to face a sore Nets team winners of four of their last five games, and they are winning behind the power of their big man in the middle. DeMarcus Cousins has been a force, recording five straight double-doubles for the Kings, including an impressive triple-double in a victory over the Celtics on Dec. 30.

Both Cousins and Lopez are among the top scoring centers in the NBA, with Lopez leading the way at 18.9 points per game and Cousins ranked fourth at 17.1 points per contest. In fact, in the three times these two big men have faced each other, they are both averaging 16.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game against each other, with the Nets winning two of those games. This should be the matchup to watch out for and if the Kings have any shot against the Nets; it has to be behind another dominant Cousins performance.

“He's one of the most talented players in the league. Has been since the day he came in,” Carlesimo said glowingly of Cousins before the game. “DeMarcus has the elusive element for most players in this league is consistency and very few have the talent he has and the ability, the kind of numbers he does.”

The Nets not only need Lopez to match up with Cousins to have success, but they need Deron Williams to be Deron Williams for continued fruition in the standings. Williams had a big night against the Wizards, posting 24 points and 10 assists, marking the first time since Dec. 15 that the star point guard put up 20 or more points. He has been a major disappointment so far this season and looked out of sorts for most of start of it. But maybe the flip of the calendar to 2013 will rejuvenate his game. What better way for that to start than at home against a surprisingly hot Kings team, who again, on paper, the Nets should beat.

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