Can the Nets beat the best?

The Brooklyn Nets may be a much-improved team under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo -- but they continue to struggle against .500-or-better teams.

The Nets are 13-5 since Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson, but their margins of defeat in those five losses -- all to winning teams -- are alarming: Miami, 20; Houston, 13; Memphis, 24; Atlanta, 14; and San Antonio, 31.

After Brooklyn's 105-85 loss to LeBron James and Co., Gerald Wallace ripped into the team for its recent play versus the NBA's elite squads.

"We're saying we want to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, and we want to compete for the playoffs and shoot for a championship, but we're having letdowns against some of the top teams in the league and we can't do that and be a successful team," Wallace said.

The Nets are 10-19 against .500 or better teams (at time of game played) this season. Here are their stats in those games, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:

• Points per game: 92.2

• Points per game allowed: 96.4

• Field goal percentage: 43.0

• Field goal percentage allowed: 47.9

• Turnovers per game: 15

On the other hand, the Nets are 17-0 against sub-.500 teams. Here are their stats in those games, courtesy of Elias:

• Points per game: 101.9

• Points per game allowed: 91.6

• Field goal percentage: 46.6

• Field goal percentage allowed: 43.7

• Turnovers per game: 13.6

"I tell the guys, 'Everything looks good against the average team because we're able to make up because of our talent,'" Wallace said. "But when we play against these marquee teams, we can't have those types of games and having the same thing happen over and over again."

Eight of Brooklyn's 12 games in February are against teams with .500-or-better records (Chicago, San Antonio, Indiana, Denver, Milwaukee twice, Houston and Memphis). The Nets have capitalized on playing inferior opponents all season. We're going to find out a lot about them when they take on the league's best in the coming weeks.