We’ve seen this movie before…12 times to be exact.
The Brooklyn Nets loss to the Washington Wizards marked their 13th double-digit defeat of the 2016-17 season as they’ll now enter the new (calendar) year with an 8-24 record (7.5 games out of the playoffs if you’re scoring at home).
From beginning to end, pillar to post, whatever phrase you want to insert, it was no different than what we’ve seen literally a dozen times earlier this season.
Except in one way. For the first time, there was evidence that the losing was getting to the Nets.
“When you come out flat like that, that’s what’s going to happen, especially when you’re on the road. You can’t do that,’’ Sean Kilpatrick told The Post. “There was a lot of bickering back-and-forth with each other instead of playing together, and that’s not the way to be as a team.
“As a team you’re not going to win — on the road especially — if you don’t come in together and try to play together. If everything is an argument almost every play that we go down, that’s what’s going to happen. Teams are going to pick that apart. And they saw that early in the game. They saw it very early.”
And Kenny Atkinson expressed his disappointment with the team’s character.
“I’m disappointed with our performance,” Atkinson said. “Coming off two really competitive games against good teams, we should’ve come in here and played better.
“[I’m] so disappointed in our group. That’s rare I’ve been at this level of disappointment. We did not play well. I don’t think we were ready to play. I’ll take that on me. I didn’t feel that spirit.”
The game started, as it often does, with several basket exchanges in the first quarter before the Wizards pulled away late and led 31-23 after the opening 12 minutes. In the first, the Nets were helped by a pair of young guns with starting point guard Isaiah Whitehead scoring five points, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson energizing the team off the bench with six.
In the second, the Wizards began to find more holes in the Nets defense and exploited them.
Over and over and over again.
It isn’t a knock on the Nets really, because any offense with John Wall leading the way should be dynamic as all hell, and boy, were they ever.
Wall kicked it into gear, one of which only possessed by the few elite point guards in this league, and began to torch the Brooklyn defense. Even former Michigan guard Trey Burke poured on 18 second quarter points, plenty thanks to Wall’s contribution of distribution (seven first half assists).
Burke, who came off the bench, had 20 points at half time on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting, including four three-point makes, aiding a 66-50 Wizard advantage midway.
Because who needs Bradley Beal anyway, right?
A few minutes into the third, the Wizards amassed a 21-point lead, prompting a Kenny Atkinson timeout, and the immediate future looked bleak. The Nets showed some Brooklyn Grit, and pinched away with 10 unanswered points to slice the deficit to 11.
Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter and Wall then decided to dunk all over the Brooklyn-based squad, the latter in particular, who after crossing over and spearing into the lane, dunked on a defending Justin Hamilton with 2:16 to go to extend the Wizard lead to 18…with his alleged weak (left) hand.
The Nets crept back in but never within double-digits, and ultimately suffered a 118-95 defeat.
Burke ended the night with 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting (5-of-5 from three) and led the Wizards. Wall, who we should see in the All-Star game in about six weeks, capped off what looked like a joyous evening for the seventh year pro, with 19 points, 14 assists and four steals. Gortat, who the Nets struggled with all night, finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, two points away from his season-high.
The Net efforts were driven early on by Trevor Booker, who had team highs in points and rebounds with 16 and seven respectively. Booker’s points came in a timely fashion considering he had only netted 31 points in his previous six outings (5.2 ppg).
Hollis-Jefferson, who himself entered with 9.8 points per game in his last 10 appearances, capped off the night with 16 points and five rebounds, serving as a bright spot for the evening as his offensive game seemingly continues to grow. Hollis-Jefferson has now poured on double-digit points in four of his last six games, and is posting 12.2 points per contest during that stretch.
Rookie guard Caris LeVert had career-highs in points and minutes in what was his finest and most encouraging showing to date. The Michigan-product had 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor, with 2-of-3 made from deep, and a perfect 2-of-2 hit from the charity stripe, all in 24 minutes of action. LeVert also grabbed three boards and had two steals, the first came seconds after checking in.
He looks quick, he looks more comfortable, and more importantly, he looks healthy.
Jeremy Lin (hamstring), Joe Harris (hip) and Bradley Beal (ankle) all missed Friday’s game. Brian Lewis of the New York Post reported Harris was a game-time decision and shot around prior to tip-off earlier this evening. As for Lin, you know the deal – #NoTimetable.
To start the new year, the Nets will return home and host the Utah Jazz on January 2.