Pacers vs. Nets: Brooklyn trying to gain ground in Eastern Conference standings

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets trail the Pacers by 1 1/2 games for third place in the East heading into Sunday's game.

The Brooklyn Nets (21-15) have won five straight games and could move to within a half game of third place in the Eastern Conference with a win at home over the Indiana Pacers (23-14) at 6 p.m. Sunday.

P.J. Carlesimo has led the Nets to wins in seven of eight games since taking over as head coach of the Nets after Avery Johnson was fired in December. Carlesimo previously had head coaching stops in Portland, Golden State and with the Oklahoma City franchise, but he's had little success. The key for him in Brooklyn so far has been getting star player Deron Williams to support him -- at least so far.

"(Carlesimo) gets after it," Williams told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. "He's yelling all practice, all game. But I think guys respect it because he's a straight shooter. He's pretty hilarious. That's what makes it funny. When he's yelling, it's still funny. We try not to laugh right there, but he does a great job of balancing it. It's not like he's just screaming all the time. He's doing a good job of teaching us as well."

Williams has played well over the last three games, averaging 17.3 points and six assists per game while shooting better than 60 percent (up significantly from his 41 percent shooting mark for the season). Brook Lopez (18.5 points per game), Joe Johnson (17.1 points per game) and Andray Blatche (11.4 points per game) give the Nets plenty of scoring.

The Nets come into the game with injury concerns -- Williams sustained a thigh contusion in Friday's game and Gerald Wallace, who averages 9.8 points per game, is out with bruised ribs. He'll likely be replaced in the starting lineup by MarShon Brooks.

The Pacers come into Sunday's game on a four-game winning streak, including a win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The win included a triple-double from forward David West, who finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, and a strong performance from backup point guard D.J. Augustin. Augustin tied his season-high with 18 points and scored in double figures for just the third time this season.

Augustin played more minutes because shooting guard Paul George, the team's leading scorer, didn't play against Charlotte because of an illness. Third-year guard Lance Stephenson also played well without George, scoring a season-high 17 points. If George is still unable to play Sunday, the Pacers will need another strong effort from both Augustin and George. Dominic McGuire got the start in place of George on Saturday.

The Nets and Pacers have yet to play each other this season, but the Pacers won three of four games against the Nets last season. The Pacers have won 13 of the last 15 against the Nets overall.

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