Nets vs. Wizards: Brooklyn Rolls Into D.C.
Nets have won eight of last 10 after Friday's historic offensive night
Before the Brooklyn Nets took off on their recent stretch of eight wins in 10 games that has lifted them to second place in the Eastern Conference with a 13-8 record, their last loss was to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center. On Friday night, the Nets returned the favor with emphasis, demolishing OKC with a franchise-record scoring show in a 147-125 win.
Brooklyn’s current three-game road trip is no revenge tour, but you could use it to measure some growth. The Nets lost to Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Washington all at home in the season’s first two weeks. Now they’ve gone on the road and beaten the Hawks and Thunder, with the Wizards coming up on Sunday night.
In between, of course, they swung the franchise-altering deal to acquire James Harden at the cost of Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, and Rodions Kurucs.
“We’re getting there,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “We are different in personnel clearly. I think we’re slowly inching forward at both ends of the floor. We struggled defensively at times, but I think we’re getting more solid with our game plan defensively, which is important. Offensively, you’re starting to see a little more flow. You’re seeing James is able to manage a game like that and manipulate the defense. He brings something different to the table than the first two times we played those teams and it’s incredibly important for us as well.”
The Nets have moved up to the top of the league rankings for points per game with a 121.0 average and they’re second in offensive rating (116.2). Brooklyn leads the league in field goal percentage (49.5) and effective field goal percentage (57.7) and is third in 3-point percentage (39.5) and fourth in assists (26.8), with Harden averaging 11.8 assists as a Net. Harden has been listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a left thigh contusion.
“There’s a familiarity growing on both ends of the floor,” said Nash. “We’ve got a long ways to go defensively. It’s not our forte or strong suit, but we’ve got to be clean with our gameplan and make sure that we’re talking and anticipating actions, so I think that’s improving. And offensively, I think guys are starting to get a feel and rhythm for one another, how each other likes to play, where they like the ball, how they like to move, cut and play off each other. James is a master at leading that and manipulating the floor, and obviously with Ky and Kevin’s scoring ability it’s very potent at that end of the floor, so we’ve got to continue to refine offensively to find that connectivity, and then defensively the same thing. Just get sharper and cleaner with all of our reads and talking and executing at that end, we can be solid down there.”
LANDRY SHAMET CONNECTS
In the middle of the 15-0 run that opened the second quarter and lifted Brooklyn to a 24-point lead on Friday night were two 3-pointers from Landry Shamet. The third-year guard had not played in four of Brooklyn’s previous five games, but with Kevin Durant held out for the night, it opened an opportunity and Shamet came through with 11 points, making 3-of-7 3-pointers.
“It was great. I was happy for Landry,” said Steve Nash. “Obviously, he's a very good shooter. He hasn’t had a good start to the season shooting the ball, but he's done his job whenever we’ve played him. He’s been good defensively, and taken shots and just hasn’t had them go in yet, so tonight he got a little rhythm going which is great to see.”
BRUCE BROWN FINDS THE RIM
Guard Bruce Brown got the start in Kevin Durant’s absence on Friday and scored a season-high 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. That followed his 12 points in Wednesday’s win over Atlanta on 5-of-7 shooting.
“I know where to find — if someone’s gonna leave me — I know where to find holes,” said Brown. “(Kyrie Irving) does a great job getting downhill, James (Harden) does a great job getting downhill, so I could just find the cracks and seams and if they find me, I could just go right up to my floater.”
Brown is shooting 59.0 percent overall, and he’s taken 43 of his 83 shots at the rim, where he’s finishing at a 74.4 percent rate. He doesn’t have enough attempts to quality for the league leaders, but among guards who do, Jrue Holiday has the highest percentage at 68.6.
“When I was going against Detroit last year, Bruce was the starting point guard,” said Irving. “He was able to still find ways to be effective, and I feel like, with this group, you’re going to get open shots, and being in the right spots when we collapse the defense, it creates opportunities, and we just want guys to stay aggressive and make the right plays. Even if it doesn’t go our way, just be in the right spots, and Bruce happens to be in the right spots. He’s one of those guys that can just sniff out the ball and put himself in position. Having a huge impact on our team, so I’m proud of him.”
Brown continues to board, as well. He’s got a per-36 rebounding rate of 8.8, fourth among guards behind Russell Westbrook (9.8), Luka Doncic (9.6), and Ben Simmons (9.2). Doncic is 6-foot-7 and Simmons is 6-11. Brown is 6-4.
NASH ON NORVEL PELLE
Newly signed center Norvel Pelle was not available for Brooklyn in Friday’s game, and Steve Nash said before the game there would be an adjustment for Pelle to get up to speed having last played with Philadelphia on the NBA Campus in Orlando during the summer.
Pelle is a 27-year-old, 6-foot-10, 231-pound center who made his NBA debut last year on a two-way contract with the Sixers before signing a standard deal in February. Named to the NBA G League All-Defensive Team after the 2018-19 season, Pelle played 24 games for Philadelphia last season and another either for Delaware in the G League.
“He’s a rim protecting center who can block shots, and a lob threat in and behind the defense,” said Nash. “I think it’s really, we’ll see as we go here how physically he’s able to adapt to playing in the NBA again after a little layoff and we can get him up to speed and see if he gets an opportunity.”
ABOUT THE WIZARDS
The Wizards are 3-12 and in last place in the Eastern Conference, having lost seven of eight since their win in Brooklyn on Jan. 3. Washington has been in the middle of the pack offensively, thanks largely to Bradley Beal’s league-leading 34.7 points per game, but the Wizards are 29th in defensive rating (114.7), opponent points allowed per game (120.1), and opponent field goal percentage allowed (48.5).