The Brooklyn Nets came up one point short of matching their historic offensive showing of two nights earlier, but that still left them three points short of the Washington Wizards in a 149-146 loss on Sunday night.
The Wizards made two 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds to wipe out a five-point Brooklyn lead and hand the Nets a stunning loss in a game in which they led by 18 points in the first half, shot 56.8 percent overall and 52.8 percent from 3-point range, and came within a point of matching the franchise record for points scored in a regulation game.
But they couldn’t hold off the Wizards, who scored 48 points on 60.0 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
“I don't know if we'll get that many wins if we allow 48 points in any quarter," said Kyrie Irving. "So, you know it's a tough night when you're giving up that many points and it's a tough night when you're not particularly doing the little things that could create some separation down the stretch. We had that game. It should've been ours, so we just look at ourselves in the mirror and see what we can correct as individuals and as a group — especially on effort. I couldn't guard a stick today. Those guys were just going right around me, and I was getting frustrated a little bit. But they kept attacking. But that's what good teams do and what good scorers do, so.”
The Nets led by 10 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, and were still up nine with just under five minutes to go after an Irving 3-pointer made it 130-121. But they were back in a tie at 141 with 41.1 seconds remaining before Irving’s pull-up jumper with 31.1 seconds to go. Jeff Green followed up by making 1-of-2 from the line, and with 12.2 seconds left, Irving made a pair for a 146-141 lead.
But Washington’s Bradley Beal knocked down a 3-pointer, Joe Harris turned it over on the inbounds pass, and Russell Westbrook connected for a 3-pointer that put the Wizards ahead with 4.3 seconds to go. Inbounding from the Brooklyn baseline with 2.9 seconds left, Irving got the ball to Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot cutting down the lane, but his layup rolled off the rim.
“We gave up 149 points, 72 points in the paint, 48 points in the fourth quarter, 17 turnovers didn’t help, but you know, the defense wasn’t good enough and I think everyone realizes we obviously had many opportunities to win it down the stretch, but probably didn’t deserve it the way we guarded all night,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “Frustrating night. The level dropped and we’ve got to pick it up.”
While the Nets were without James Harden, Kevin Durant returned to action with 37 points on 11-of-19 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. Even without Durant on Friday night, the Nets matched franchise record with 147 points in a regulation game, and they came within a point of hitting that mark again.
Harris matched a career high with 30 points while setting a career high with eight 3-pointers, shooting 11-for-17 overall and 8-for-13 from 3-point range, and Irving finished with 26 points and eight assists.
Green scored 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, making 4-of-5 3-pointers. Landry Shamet added 11 points and DeAndre Jordan had eight points and eight rebounds.
“We can score with the best of them,” said Harris. “We could easily be sitting here at the end of the year and say we have one of the better offensive teams to play this game. But that being said, the defense has to follow suit, too. You can’t just always rely on the offense and nights like tonight are kind of indicative of that.”
Brooklyn led 71-65 at halftime after flying out of the gate to an 18-point lead. The Nets opened up shooting 12-for-21, including six of their first nine 3-pointers, in taking a 31-13 lead, and carried a 38-28 edge into the second quarter.
But after the Wizards found some rhythm late in the first quarter, they carried it over, scoring the first nine points of the second quarter, as part of a 24-7 run that brought them within 38-37, eventually taking a 57-56 lead before Durant scored nine of Brooklyn’s last 15 points of the half — assisting on two other Jordan dunks — as the Nets went back up by six at the break.
“It’s a game of runs, first of all,” said Harris. “You see tons of runs over the course of the NBA season, and tonight was no different. We just didn’t capitalize I guess in terms of stalling what they had going. They kind of got the momentum going there in the second quarter and it sort of seemed to continue on from that point. We were never really able to get it back to where we were at energy-wise in the first quarter.”
Now that everybody was in rhythm, a breakneck second half followed. Brooklyn pushed its lead back to 10 points as Luwawu-Cabarrot knocked down a corner three, then finished in transition for a 96-86 lead. The Nets and Wizards traded baskets from there until the end of the quarter, with the Nets taking a 108-101 lead into the fourth.
Green and Harris combined for Brooklyn’s first 12 points of the fourth quarter as the Nets led 120-111 with 8:52 to go. With the Wizards back within 121-119, Bruce Brown put back a rebound and Irving scored seven straight Brooklyn points, with his 3-pointer putting the Nets up 130-121. But Washington’s 10-2 run capped by Westbrook’s transition three-point play made it a one-point game with 2:41 to go.
Durant twice made a pair from the line for a 136-131 lead, Beal converted a three-point play for the Wizards, and Harris answered with a 3-pointer for a 139-134 Nets lead with 1:38 to go. Two more Durant free throws made it a 141-136 Brooklyn lead before Westbrook tied the game with 41.1 seconds left.
“I thought we turned it over a bunch when we had the lead or when we could have had a bigger lead even,” said Nash. “Just allowed them to hang around and give them some confidence. They scored 149 and they missed a bunch of threes that they are very capable of making, so it could have been worse but I think we just let our foot off the gas. Thought we were gonna win and that’s a dangerous game to play.”