P.J. Carlesimo is running the hottest team in the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets, and shoots for his 10th win as interim coach Wednesday in the opener of a home-and-home set with the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
Carlesimo is 9-1 since taking over for Avery Johnson after a 14-14 start and the Nets extended their season-high winning streak to seven games with Tuesday's 113-106 triumph over the Toronto Raptors in the finale of a three- game homestand. The Nets overcame a sluggish start and received 21 points apiece from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
"The offense was working good tonight," Williams said. "We had a lot of good things happening. A lot of ball movement and extra passes, we had a good flow to the game."
Brook Lopez had 22 points and nine rebounds. Brooklyn is 15-0 against teams with a record below .500 and shot 49.4 percent from the floor. Andray Blatche contributed 14 points in the win, helping the Nets pull within 1 1/2 games of the New York Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead.
The Nets will host the Hawks Friday at the Barclays Center and will play five of their next six games on the road, where they are 8-8 this season. The Nets have scored 100-plus points six times under Carlesimo and are riding the longest winning streak since a 14-gamer from March 12-April 6, 2006.
In other team news, Johnson will face the Hawks for the first time since joining Brooklyn in the offseason. Johnson, an All Star in each of the last six seasons, averaged 18.8 points, 3.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 60 games last season. He spent seven season with Atlanta.
The Hawks have dropped two in a row and six of their last seven games, including Monday's disappointing 97-58 setback at Chicago. They set franchise lows for points in a quarter (five in the second) and points in a half (20 in the first), while just missing the all-time low for points in a game. The Milwaukee Hawks scored 57 points against Boston back in 1955.
Mike Scott was the only Atlanta player with 10 or more points, finishing with 10 off the bench, and both Josh Smith and Kyle Korver had nine points apiece. Al Horford pulled down 11 rebounds for the Hawks, who shot a miserable 29.3 percent for the game and made only 2-of-14 3-pointers.
"This was very, very embarrassing," Atlanta coach Larry Drew admitted. "It's time to shake things up. There will be changes."
Smith was just suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for conduct detrimental to the team. He will miss Wednesday's game. In 35 games this season, Smith is averaging team highs in scoring (16.5 points) and blocked shots (2.3), while adding 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals.
"Clearly I am competitive and was frustrated by our recent losses. I understand and respect the team's actions and just want to get back on the court to do whatever is necessary to help my teammates," Smith said. "I apologize for letting them down and apologize to our fans for not being available for tonight's game."
Atlanta is set to play three of the next four games at home, where it is 12-6 this season and 9-3 against Eastern Conference foes. The Hawks are currently winless in five straight matchups with the East.
In off the court news for the Hawks, radio play-by-play announcer Steve Holman will call his 2,000th game in a row versus the Nets. His streak began back in March of the 1988-89 season, when the Hawks went 52-30.
The Hawks took all four meetings with the Nets a season ago and has won five straight, six of seven and 10 of the past 12 matchups in this series. The Nets are winless in seven straight and eight of nine trips to Georgia.