The Nets had lost both of their meetings against humble Washington, including the worst defensive performance in the entire NBA all season. On Sunday they broke whatever hex the Wizards had on them.
Brooklyn got back on the winning track, a 113-106 win at Barclays Center.
The Nets got typically impressive performances from James Harden (26 points, eight assists, five rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (28 points, seven rebounds and six assists), Harden shaking off a collision late in the first half to excel in the game. second. Newly acquired Blake Griffin made his Nets debut and even ignited the crowd with his first dunk since December 2019.
The Nets (29-14) turned a 14-point deficit in the first half into a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter that never gave up. They saw Washington crawl to a point with three minutes to play, but received a response from Nic Claxton (16 points) and kept the Wizards at arm’s length for the rest of the night.
Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 13 assists and 13 rebounds for Washington. But Brooklyn survived to win for the 15th time in the past 17 games, and the fourth in a row at home, to move a half game behind Philadelphia, pending the outcome of the Kniicks-76ers game. The only negative was that Landry Shamet sprained his right ankle.
Still, it marked a quantum leap from previous meetings against the Wizards. The Nets came out flat and gave away the Jan.3 incline, then allowed 149 points in a rematch Jan.31 at Capital One Arena. It’s still the most points allowed by any team this season, and it had left Brooklyn at just 13-9.
“We were aware. We looked at some clips to remind them what we want to take off, what we don’t take off in the first game,” Steve Nash said. things were very easy on the offensive side and they had a great fourth quarter and we kicked it at the last minute.
“In the last game in Washington in particular in the fourth quarter, I felt like they had 50 points in the fourth quarter, and a lot of them were [Bradley] Beal or Westbrook carry you coast to coast throughout the quarter. So go back, show a crowd, have the discipline to do it over and over and then go down and take a stand and protect people. We can’t take anything for granted. “
They have done a better job with it. The Nets are 16-5 from behind on a vastly improved defense.
“We have improved with our technique, clearer with what we ask them to do. We’ve spent more time together, ”Nash said before the game. “We have added more layers to it, so I think it is more than anything the time and dedication that has put us in a better situation.
“But we have to keep improving. We are not a defensive monster. We have to keep improving all year long and getting better and better and tonight is another opportunity to clean up some things. “
Brooklyn trailed early, trailing 20-6 on a Garrison Matthews 3-pointer with 7:14 left in the first quarter.
But exactly one period later, with 7:14 left at the half, the Nets turned the game around entirely with an extended run of 35-14, including recovering nine unanswered points to open the second quarter.
Joe Harris hit a 3-pointer to give Brooklyn a 41-34 lead. The Nets bullied Washington on 5 of 18 shots and eight turnovers, sparking their own transition game in turn.
Harris hit another exactly one minute later to bring the lead to 46-36. And when Irving intercepted a Westbrook pass, it led to a Bruce Brown layup at the other end and a 52-38 lead.
Brooklyn saw the Wizards’ claw at four points, but responded immediately with a 9-1 streak to rebuild the lead.
The Nets saw Washington return to 103-102 on a Westbrook layup with three minutes remaining, but Irving found Claxton for a dunk and a three-point play with 2:39 in regulation time.
When Brooklyn forced a miss from Matthews, Irving took the rebound and hit a pair of free throws at the other end to take the lead to five with 1:17 to play. They held on from there.