The Wizards headed into Brooklyn coming off one of their best wins of the season at home on Monday night. They were looking to build on that momentum, but the Nets had other plans. It was a hard-fought, gritty game, but the Wizards fell short by a final score of 113-107 despite getting 27 points and a career-high 19 rebounds from Kristaps Porzingis.
The tone was set early in this one. On the first possession of the game, Bradley Beal attacked the cup and finished with a layup. After that, the Wizards' next eight points came in the paint and that would remain their focus. They ended the game with a massive advantage in points in the paint, scoring 58 and holding the Nets to 32.
Unfortunately, the Nets didn't need to score in the paint to get their offense going. They have an all-time unique weapon in Kevin Durant that can pour it in from anywhere, and he did just that. He entered Wednesday night's game coming off three straight 30-point performances and eclipsed that mark easily once again.
Durant went off in the first quarter, single-handedly making life tough on the Wizards' defense. He scored 16 in the opening frame and finished the game with 39 points on a wildly-efficient 13-of-20 shooting from the field and 11-of-11 shooting from the charity stripe. He was a problem for the Wizards.
"[Durant's] the best player in the world," said Porzingis after the game. "He's very hard to stop."
Despite Durant's nice night, Washington was able to hang tough for most of the game. At the half, they were only down four points thanks to quality performances from Beal, Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma. The Wizards' Big 3 combined for 42 points on 15-of-27 shooting from the field after the first two quarters.
In the second half, the game was all about the little things. The Wizards were doing a nice job of rebounding the ball well, creating second-chance points, getting to the rim, and doing whatever it took to keep the game close. Yet still, they struggled to take the lead, and when they did, they couldn't keep it. The Nets had the lead for nearly the entire game, but for the first 45 minutes, it never reached double-digits. The Wizards never let go of the rope.
One reason Washington was struggling to take the lead for the majority of the game despite doing so many things well was their inability to knock down free throws consistently. The team shot 23-of-34 from the free-throw line, and in a tight game, that came back to bite them. This isn't cause for concern going forward. The guys who missed the most free throws are primarily high-level free-throw shooters. Porzingis missed five, Beal missed three, and Corey Kispert missed one. That won't happen very often. This was most likely an ill-timed blip.
With just over two minutes remaining, a Kyrie Irving three-ball gave the Nets an 11-point lead -- their largest of the night and one that would prove to be too large to overcome. The Wizards got an inkling of hope after a Kispert three cut the lead to five with under 40 seconds remaining, but Irving and Durant went perfect from the free-throw line when it was time to play the fouling game, ultimately putting the nail in the coffin. Final score: Wizards 107, Nets 113.
"Didn't shoot it great," said Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. "But I did think we did some good things as far as process, creating action against their switches. So, it's growth."
Porzingis led the way for the Wizards, scoring 27 points on an impressive 8-of-14 shooting from the field to go along with 19 rebounds, two blocks, and one steal. Kuzma and Beal were right behind him, putting up 25 points each.
Next up for the Wizards is a good opportunity in a Friday-night game against the Hornets.