After an embarrassing performance in their first official game in the bubble, the Brooklyn Nets faced a must-win situation against the Washington Wizards who are currently chasing them for the 8th seed in the playoffs.
If it was a must-win game the Nets didn’t start the game as if that were the case. After Brooklyn scored the first points of the game, Washington went on an 11-0 run. The offensive struggles fans feared coming into the bubble reared its ugly head as the Nets started the game shooting 1-11 from the field. Their second field goal was a Joe Harris three at the seven-minute mark. That seemed to be the spark Brooklyn needed as they ended the quarter on a 19-6 run. Chris Chiozza and Joe Harris had a couple of acrobatic layups toward the end that seemed to galvanize the bench.
The two teams would trade buckets all 2nd quarter there was no rhythm or flow to the game. If one team made a run it was answered by a similar run on the other end. Jerian Grant and Thomas Bryant carried the Wizards in the 2nd combining for 19 points. The Nets held a six-point lead late in the second quarter but a pair of Thomas Bryant threes and a clutch charge had both teams entering the half tied. Bryant tallied 18 points, 7 rebounds while shooting 4-5 on 3-pt FGs as the Nets had no answer for him
The 2nd half started in a similar fashion to how the 2nd quarter started with both teams exchanging blows. Once again the Nets showed difficulty on the offensive end of the court as possessions became stagnant and open shots weren’t made. After a quiet 1st half Caris LeVert came alive in the 3rd quarter, scoring 11 points in the frame and Joe Harris added nine points as well. In the 4th quarter, the Nets leaned on Harris and LeVert as the duo combined for 23 of the team’s35 points in the period. A couple of Joe Harris threes and tough finishes by Caris was just enough for Brooklyn to outlast the Wizards for a 118-110 victory.
The play of Caris LeVert was something many fans had eyeballs on entering the bubble and so far he has not disappointed. Caris proved he could carry a team to the finish line in this game as he scored 25 of his 34 total points in the second half. He did it in typical Caris LeVert fashion with a combination of threes, tough finishes at the basket and getting to the free throw line His 34-point performance was also his 4th 30 point game of his career. Joe Harris was another bright spot but do we expect anything less? “Headband Joe” shot 6-7 from deep and finished with 27 points. When the Nets needed a bucket it seemed as though Joe was there with a clutch three or layup.
Jarrett Allen’s activity and energy was something to behold as well. He finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds. He didn’t appear to shy away from the physicality in the paint and made his presence felt with a couple of statue of liberty dunks. And lastly, Chris Chiozza seemed to have a bounce-back game. After being taken out of the starting lineup Chiozza gave Brooklyn some quality minutes off the bench. After a shaky 1st quarter “Cheese” finished the game with 14 points and 6 assists. Solid numbers out of the backup PG role.
Although the Nets captured the win there were some negatives and they were glaring. The first of which is the play of Tyler Johnson. After a solid 1st game Johnson was inserted into the starting lineup but was less than stellar. In 29 minutes he shot 0-4 from the field with his only points coming on free throws once the game was over. It could be an aberration but he certainly didn’t bump up his stock. Another disappointment this game was Lance Thomas who also was in the starting lineup. He played only 10 minutes and was a -7 in +/-. It’s clear Thomas is not the answer at the 4 as Rodions Kurucs and Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot took a majority of the minutes.
And it wouldn’t be a Nets game without highlighting their defensive struggles. Much like the game against the Magic the Nets found difficulty sustaining momentum after made buckets because they would give up shots on the other end. The only difference in this game is the Wizards didn’t make the Nets pay on open looks like the Magic did as their 9-31 (29%) shooting from deep showed. However, allowing Thomas Bryant to put up 30 points and shoot at will from deep is unacceptable. Rotations still look slow and breakdowns are coming too easy. Even though expectations for this team aren’t the highest in the bubble there needs to be a more concerted effort on the defensive end.
A win is a win though and Nets fans should enjoy this victory. Up next for Brooklyn is Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks. And that could be a long game.