The San Antonio Spurs defense has been unusually bad over the last two games. It's been a long time since they've had the same problems against the New Jersey Nets.

After allowing at least 100 points in two straight losses, the Spurs take the court Tuesday looking to extend a seven-game winning streak against the Nets, who will be missing Jason Kidd.

A strained lower back will force Kidd to miss a game for the first time this season Tuesday, and he'll also sit out New Jersey's matchup in Toronto on Wednesday. His status for Sunday's All-Star game is uncertain.

The absence of Kidd, who is third in the league with 8.7 assists per game, will only make things easier on a Spurs squad which has struggled defensively of late.

San Antonio (33-18), perennially one of the NBA's top defensive teams, has allowed 100 points or more in regulation in consecutive games for the first time since the last four contests of the 1996-97 season.

The Spurs also have allowed two straight opponents to shoot over 52 percent from the field for the first time since April 2005. It hasn't happened to San Antonio in three consecutive games since Feb. 15-19, 1997.

"We're just not able to get over that hump when we need to," said Tim Duncan, whose Spurs allow 91.4 points per game to rank second in the league. "The consistency is not there, offensively and defensively."

The Spurs, who are 2-4 on a season-high eight-game road trip, now look to avoid their first loss to the Nets (25-27) since a 91-82 defeat on Nov. 13, 2002. In seven meetings since, San Antonio has held New Jersey to 79.1 points per game and 38 percent shooting from the field.

A Spurs loss, though, would match their longest losing streak of the season - three straight games from Jan. 2-5. The team hasn't lost three straight on the road since the final three contests of 2004-05.

San Antonio allowed Miami to shoot 52 percent from the field in a 100-85 loss on Sunday, two days after a 106-104 loss to Orlando in which the Magic shot 54 percent.

"We're still not playing physically enough, tough enough," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We're playing soft for too many minutes in the game. Just hoping and begging."

The Nets, meanwhile, have won three straight after a four-game losing streak and have a chance to match their longest winning streak of the season, set from Jan. 15-20.

New Jersey is holding opponents to 80.3 points per game and 37 percent shooting during its run, which comes after surrendering 100 points or more in each of their previous eight contests.

The Nets had lost two straight at home before a 93-78 win over Orlando on Saturday night.

Vince Carter led New Jersey with 32 points, reaching 30 for the first time in seven games. While Kidd had 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists, his backup had another solid game and will need to continue stepping up now that the All-Star point guard is sidelined.

Marcus Williams is proving to be the productive backup for Kidd the Nets have been searching for.

Williams provided 12 clutch points off the bench against the Magic. The rookie had 17 points Friday in the Nets' 92-78 win over Boston.

"Marcus has some innate scoring ability," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "He gives us another guy who can not only make shots, but create shots. That's what good players do."

Williams is averaging 12.0 points and 4.0 assists in his last 11 games.

"I think I have a lot more confidence now," said Williams, the 22nd pick in last year's draft. "Coach is letting me play through some of my mistakes and Jason is tutoring me, with all of the other veterans."

Carter, who leads the team with 25.0 points per game, is averaging 19.5 points and shooting 37 percent in 16 games against San Antonio.

This is the first matchup of the season between the Nets and Spurs. They will conclude their season series on March 10 in San Antonio.


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