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Two weeks ago, the Brooklyn Nets defeated the last-place New Orleans Hornets thanks in large part to a clutch performance from Deron Williams.

Improved defensive play may be the key this time.

While Williams looks to continue his impressive stretch, coach P.J. Carlesimo wants better defense from his team as the Nets attempt to re-establish their momentum Tuesday night against the Hornets.

Brooklyn (37-27) won 101-97 at New Orleans on Feb. 26, when Williams scored the team's final 11 points of the game to finish with 33.

The Nets failed to capitalize on another impressive outing for Williams on Monday, wasting his 27 points, 13 assists and six rebounds in a 106-97 defeat at Philadelphia that ended their three-game winning streak.

"It's just another number," Williams said of reaching 10,000 career points. "I'm more worried about the loss than the record or anything like that."

Carlesimo's concerns are more specifically centered on Brooklyn allowing the 76ers to shoot 52.6 percent from the floor - 8 for 15 from behind the arc. The Nets gave up an average of 78.7 points on 38.2 percent shooting - 22.6 from long range - over the previous three games.

"I'm way more concerned with our defense than our offense right now," Carlesimo said. "We weren't good offensively, but 97 points on the road should be enough to win a game."

An improved effort may be just what the Nets need to gain ground in the Atlantic Division race since they soon embark on a season-high eight-game road trip with the circus taking over Barclays Center. On Sunday, they host Atlanta - whom they beat 93-80 on the road last Saturday - after facing the Hornets (22-42), occupants of the Southwest Division cellar.

Williams could be the difference again since he's averaging 25.1 points while connecting on 50.0 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc (30 for 60) over the last eight games.

The Hornets enter this three-game road trip looking for their third win in 11 games as the visitor. However, they're coming off a 98-96 home win over Portland, ending a three-game overall losing streak that included two defeats after squandering late double-digit leads.

"We're learning and this was a big step for us," forward Ryan Anderson said. "We could have lost this game, too, in a similar way in the fourth quarter. We proved that we can kind of be resilient and hold on."

Anderson was a big reason for that, coming through with 20 points and 13 boards while hitting 4 of 9 from long range against the Trail Blazers.

He leads the team with 16.7 points per game, but was held to 13 against the Nets last month.

Anthony Davis had six points and four rebounds in that meeting, but left in the third quarter with a left shoulder injury that sidelined him for two games. He's averaging 17.0 points and 12.3 boards in four games since returning.

Tagged: Pelicans, Nets, Deron Williams

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