Nets lack ‘it’ factor in rare blowout loss
Suffer uncharacteristic letdown against Wizards at Barclays Center
Kenny Atkinson was unable to define exactly what the Brooklyn Nets were missing Wednesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
But whatever it was, they’d better find it in a hurry.
“Obviously, we didn’t have that it,” the Nets’ third-year head coach lamented after Brooklyn suffered a humbling 125-116 drubbing at the hands of the previously slumping Washington Wizards in front of 13,683 fans on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“Whatever it is, we didn’t have it across the board — players, coaches,” Atkinson added. “It just wasn’t there. Just not nearly good enough to beat them tonight.”
The Nets (32-31), winners of three of their previous four games and coming off an impressive victory over San Antonio here on Monday night, ran out to an early 10-0 lead that may have filled them with a false confidence.
By the end of the first quarter, the Wizards, spearheaded by Bradley Beal’s game-high 31 points, had opened a 34-28 lead and boosted that advantage to as many as 28 points in the late stages of the third period.
D’Angelo Russell scored 28 points and Shabazz Napier added 22 for Brooklyn, which remained the No. 6 seed in the ongoing Eastern Conference playoff race.
But the Nets missed an opportunity to extend their advantage over seventh-place Detroit (29-31) and current No. 8 seed Charlotte (28-33), which will be at Barclays Friday night.
“Our guys are professional, they’re high-character, they’re resilient guys,” Atkinson responded when asked if his playoff-hopeful unit may have overlooked Washington, which had lost four in a row and is just 3-7 in its last 10 games.
“I just think that we’ll see how they respond to this one. I don’t think we’ve had too many clunkers like this. This is a clunker. And we’ve got to bounce back against a good Charlotte team, obviously.”
Second-year center Jarrett Allen scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Nets, who went a dismal 8-of-35 from 3-point range and lost the battle along the boards, 57-41, just two nights after outshooting and outrebounding the Spurs quite handily.
Caris LeVert, who displayed signs Monday of finally snapping out of his ongoing offensive funk since his return from a foot injury that cost him 42 games earlier this season, was held scoreless and committed two turnovers in 20 minutes.
If the Nets hope to reach the postseason for the first time in four seasons, they will have to avoid nights where they fail to play a full 48 minutes, especially against an opponent that is on the outside of the playoff picture.
After hosting Charlotte Friday night, the Nets will travel to Miami Saturday to take on a Heat team that is only 3 1/2 games behind Brooklyn in the postseason race.
“We understand the importance of every game from here on out. We have a difficult one coming up with Charlotte, obviously on Friday,” noted Joe Harris, who managed only six points on 2-of-7 shooting.
“Follow it up with Miami on Saturday – both of those games are huge for us, given the situation record-wise, where the three of us are all at,” he added. “You have to give it your best and take advantage of the home court that you have. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that tonight.”
Harris’ 3-pointer with 9:10 remaining in the third quarter pulled Brooklyn within 10 points of the Wizards and roused hopes of a second-half comeback.
But the Nets were outscored 26-14 the rest of the period, killing their short-lived momentum and sending most fans to the exits.
“I think we got a little dejected,” admitted Harris. “The energy felt down when they started to make a run in the third quarter. It seemed the harder that we tried, the worse that it got. We made a little run at it and then they started making some plays, they took advantage of our low energy. Tough to dig yourself out of it.”
Even tougher to explain how a team that has been so resilient throughout this turnaround campaign could give such a flat performance against a Washington unit that had virtually nothing to play for.
“To be honest, they just competed and played harder than we did, and I think you saw it,” Atkinson ceded.
Nothing But Net: Despite the gloomy atmosphere in the Nets’ locker room following Wednesday’s loss, Atkinson did have some very good news to deliver regarding one of his injured players. Spencer Dinwiddie, who has been out for the past 13 games due to a torn ligament in his right thumb, was added to the roster of the team’s G-League affiliate on Long Island Thursday morning. Dinwiddie, an early season contender for Sixth Man of the Year honors, will likely practice and eventually play with the L.I. Nets before returning to Brooklyn. The Nets have gone 5-8 during the reserve guard’s absence. “I’ll say this, he is very close to returning. Very close,” Atkinson said. “I’ll leave it at that. Very close. He’s been doing a lot on the court. I think he’s close to being ready.”
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