Washington Wizards 84-119 Brooklyn Nets: Three Takeaways

BROOKLYN – Kenny Atkinson wanted the Nets to play a more aggressive and physical style of play to break their four-game losing streak.

That message spoke volumes on the court.

Brooklyn responded with its best performance of the season, pulling off a commanding-victory over one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference in Washington. As impressive as the team was offensively, it was more emphatic on defense.

Just days after allowing the Kings, the NBA’s lowest-scoring team, to post 36 in the first quarter, the Nets held the Wizards to under 38 percent shooting – an impressive feat considering the opposition’s offense features John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter among others.

Here are Three Observations From the Nets’ win:

Nets Respond to Atkinson’s Plea for a Strong Start

Brooklyn had fallen into a familiar script in their recent losses: Start slowly and fall behind early before responding with a rally that falls just short in the second half. Atkinson bemoaned the habit in his pregame presser.

“We can’t save ourselves from everything,” he said. “We have to get after it from the get go.”

From the opening tip-off, the Nets were hungry as they converted six of their first eight attempts from the floor. They also outrebounded and dished more assists than their opponents, a sign of things to come. 

At the end of the first half, Brooklyn shot just 4-for-17 from behind the arc, but it didn’t matter. Instead of relying on long distance shots, they showed much more balance offensively. The Nets attacked the rim relentlessly as epitomized by Tyler Zeller and Joe Harris thunderous slams in the second quarter.

That effort carried on into the second half where the team built a 30-point lead.

That could be epitomized in the third quarter where the team fought and scrapped for four offensive rebounds before Carroll ultimately converted a three-point play.

Hollis-Jefferson Continues Quietly-Strong Season

Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert’s improvement have gotten most of the headlines, but Hollis-Jefferson is in the midst of impressive third campaign in the NBA.

The 22-year-old poured 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists on 45 percent shooting and builds on an impressive month. Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 14.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. In short, he’s the Nets’ engine on both sides of the floor. After two years of offensive inconsistency, he’s currently the team’s second-leading scorer behind the still-recovering D’Angelo Russell.

Hollis-Jefferson was recently asked about his progress this season and pointed to one critical factor: Trust.

“I’d say whatever you do, you want trust in your leader. Our leader is Kenny,” he said. “I have this wall sometimes. It’s hard for me to build that trust. That’s where you hit bumps on the road. You don’t trust something or you’re not locked into the process.

“I feel like once I locked in and trusted him, you started to see the trust and the incline in my game.”

It’s showing on the court.

LeVert’s Confidence is Growing

It seems like ages since LeVert’s quiet start to the season. Atkinson has relied on the second-year player to deliver a change of pace and LeVert has done a heck of a lot more than that.

The former Wolverine came off the bench to score 17 points and add six rebounds and three assists. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story. The way how LeVert plays is at times dazzling and brings out the crowd at Barclays Center when the Nets play at home. He had yet another ankle-breaker and remains impressive in his role as the team’s sixth man and backup point guard.