On the eve before a major snowstorm hits New York, it was Bradley Beal’s flurry of 31 points that lifted the visiting Wizards to a 114-110 in overtime.
The Washington Wizards, who went from hopeless, restless, and hurting to near the peak of the Eastern Conference in just a few weeks time, came out slowly following their epic near-season-defining loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. In response, the Nets, led by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s innate hustle and circus shot capability, were able to keep pace with the likes of the red-hot John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr.
Outside of Bogdanovic and Hollis-Jefferson’s 8 points, Brook Lopez (1-5 FG), Isaiah Whitehead, and Trevor Booker (2 points each) were the only other Nets to score in the opening 12 minutes — whereas the deep Wizards saw Beal (14 points), Wall (4), Porter Jr. (6), Jason Smith (2), Ian Mahinmi (2), and Marcin Gortat (2) all chip in. Alas, the 35% shooting paired against Wall’s 6 effortless assists would ultimately push the Wizards up 31-22 at quarter’s end.
While the next frame brought much of the hodge-podge ball bag of excuses Nets fans are familiar with — the second unit can’t score, Sean Kilpatrick has tried to do too much, free throw shooting has doomed them — the Wizards kept their foot on the gas. Against the odds, and with a pinch of Lopez magic, the Nets hung close and within ten despite their obvious shortcomings. Following back-to-back steals, the Nets briefly cut it to a four-point game after a silky smooth Caris LeVert triple.
But at the half, it was Wizards 59, Nets 49.
As Hollis-Jefferson continued to circus shot the Nets into contention, the Wizards never truly seemed threatened by the lingering home side. Wall has staked a serious claim to the Eastern Conference’s best point guard title and tonight was no different — his 17 points and 10 assists through three quarters was more than enough to push the winners an arm’s length away at all times.
Individual credit was earned by Justin Hamilton, who changed shots at the rim, nailed a big three-pointer, and grabbed a seriously important offensive rebound — the latter leading to an Isaiah Whitehead bomb that cut the deficit to just 7 points. Not too long after, it was Sean Kilpatrick nailing his own triple and setting up a fight to the finish with 9 minutes remaining. Just how would the Nets manage to lose this one?
And yet — surprise! — a much-needed appearance from magic hustler Booker queued up a 9-2 run, helped goad Scott Brooks into a technical foul, and racked up a couple buckets before you could blink. With 4 minutes to go, the Nets allowed three-straight offensive rebounds over a frantic possession, eventually relenting and fouling Porter Jr. — leaving the good guys down 95-91.
However, it would not be the Nets’ last hurrah as some crazy sequences, including a crushing a Brook Lopez offensive foul out, an insane Bogdanovic bank layup over Gortat, and a Wizards 24-second violation, the game was tied at 100-100 with 41 seconds to go.
After a missed Bogdanovic three-pointer, Wall would scoop up the ball in transition with 3 seconds to go — but an offensive charge (!) earned by LeVert would send the game into overtime. With Hollis-Jefferson, Booker, LeVert, Bogdanovic, and Randy Foye on the floor, the Nets looked to outrun the tired Wizard legs.
Enter: Trevor Booker
The man with a plan and never-ending hunger put the Nets back up time and time again, flying through the air without fear. Back and forth the action went as Porter Jr. went to the line with 1:21 to go — Nets Nation’s hearts in their collective stomachs. A Bogdanovic dunk would cut the lead to 111-108 with 28.9 to go, but Foye and LeVert collided going to for a rebound and allowed the Wizards to make it a two-possession game again with just moments remaining.
With 6 seconds left, down three, was there any magic left in the tank? Well, apparently, yes as Wall stepped out of bounds trying to avoid Bogdanovic’s foul, leaving the Nets with a gift from the basketballing gods — but the latter missed a quick three-pointer after the official review, fully and finally ending this long affair.
The effort was incredible, intense, and made this game worth watching — something that most fans will gracefully accept at this point in the season.
Nets 110, Wizards 113.
21 PTS, 6-18 FG, 5 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 1 TOV
Bojan Bogdanovic was one of the few Nets to come to the arena ready to fire away, earning himself two quick three-pointers and an emphatic “Captain Corner!” from YES’ Ian Eagle. While it wasn’t one of the Croatian’s finest games of all-time, he played an important role in the Nets avoiding all embarrassment, particularly so down the stretch and in overtime.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Small Forward
13 PTS, 5-7 FG, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 TOV
The signs of life continue to shine for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — from his circus shots to that unrivaled passion. He’s quickly learned that if he can’t shoot it, he might as well take it to the hoop with an unrelenting nature. It took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a few years to fix his shot, so give the lanky forward a bit more time, I’m fairly sure you’ll be happy you did.
Brook Lopez Center
20 PTS, 8-17 FG, 6 REB, 4 AST, 2 BLK
Your garden-variety Brook Lopez game tonight from the big man! With a handful of tough buckets, rebounds, and even a couple of assists for Lopez helped the Nets hang around longer than they had any right to.
He had his issues, at times, with the lumbering Gortat, but who doesn’t? Although he’d foul out late in the fourth quarter, it was a fine night overall for Lopez, that’s for sure.
Justin Hamilton Center
3 PTS, 1-5 FG, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
Cheers to Justin Hamilton for being a backup center that does all the small things right — from blocking high-percentage shot attempts to grabbing those gritty, possession-saving offensive rebounds. We’re past finding usefulness in Hamilton depending just on his three-point shooting too, he clearly offers a much-needed role for the Nets off the bench.
Caris LeVert Shooting Guard
9 PTS, 2-6 FG, 5 REB, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
The stat line won’t pop out at you tonight, be he played beyond his age.
Trevor Booker Power Forward
14 PTS, 6-12 FG, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
Trevor Booker had a quiet night until the fourth quarter but, boy, it was worth the wait. His emphatic play and energetic nature helped the Nets to one of their largest and most crucial runs of the night. We haven’t seen as much of him since he went to the bench, but the statistical output is still positive.
Chances are, if the Nets are involved in a close game late on, it’s probably thanks to Booker.