The New Jersey Nets are looking for momentum as they chase the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A visit to the Washington Wizards looks like a good way to get it.
The Nets seek their first three-game winning streak in two months on Wednesday, while the woeful Wizards hope to rebound from what their coach called their worst effort in even longer.
With eight losses in nine games entering Saturday night's tilt at Philadelphia, New Jersey (22-27) looked to be fading from playoff contention in the East. After an 85-83 win over the 76ers, though, the Nets beat Milwaukee 99-85 on Tuesday and moved within one-half game of the Bucks for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
Vince Carter sprained his ankle and left the win in Philadelphia, but he returned to record his fifth career triple-double - and first since April, 2007 - on Tuesday, scoring 15 points despite 3-of-12 shooting and adding 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
Rookie center Brook Lopez added 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets, following up a 24-point, 17-board effort against Philadelphia.
"He's a good player and I think this is a quality system for him," Milwaukee's Richard Jefferson said of Lopez. "When you have Vince and Devin (Harris), who are creating so much havoc on the pick-and-roll, your first job is to stop (Lopez)."
New Jersey's defense has been much improved in the last two games. After opponents averaged 102.0 points and shot 49.5 percent in the Nets' previous nine contests, the Sixers and Bucks combined to shoot just 35.5 percent from the field.
The Nets haven't won three in a row since victories at Sacramento, Utah and Phoenix from Nov. 26-30.
They should have a good chance against the Wizards (10-38). Washington has piled up plenty of losses this season, which opened with a 95-85 home defeat to the Nets, and the team will match its total from all of 2007-08 with its next defeat.
Monday's 113-97 home loss to Memphis was among the worst of the Wizards' many setbacks. Washington had few answers defensively for a Grizzlies team with three rookies in the starting lineup, as Memphis shot 49.4 percent from the field and set a new season high in points.
"That was the worst effort I've seen us give since I've been here," said Ed Tapscott, who became head coach Nov. 24. "There wasn't any hustle. There wasn't any life. That was just a very, very poor effort."
While Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are each averaging more than 20 points, there has been little consistency from the rest of the Wizards. Against the Grizzlies, Butler and Jamison combined for 50 points and 22 rebounds, while eight other Washington players combined for 47 points and 25 boards.
Washington has lost 13 of its last 16 overall and is just 4-28 against Eastern conference foes.
One of those wins came against the Nets, as the Wizards' most-lopsided victory of the season was a 108-88 triumph in East Rutherford, N.J., on Dec. 2. Butler and Jamison each had 22 points in that game.
New Jersey, though, has still won eight of the last 10 meetings in this series.