After a less-than-stellar third quarter last night, The Nets (21-28), behind some clutch shooting down the stretch, prevailed over the New York Knicks 92-88 for their third straight win. Despite leading by as much as 17, the Nets prevailed in the hard-fought fourth quarter thanks to Jarrett Jack’s dagger three-pointer with 13.8 seconds remaining. Brook Lopez contributed 22 points, nine rebounds, and six blocks off the bench to go along with Jack’s 20 points and eight assists, which put the Nets in position to win four straight games for the first time this season in Washington.
Friday’s win, combined with Miami’s loss in San Antonio, enabled the Nets to creep into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with 33 games remaining on the schedule. But keeping a stronghold on that position will be a tall task in the coming weeks: starting tonight, the Nets begin a critical stretch that will see them play their next eight games on the road, with the All-Star break providing a ten-day respite next weekend.
Tonight’s opponent, the Washington Wizards (31-20), have fallen on hard times lately. They’ve lost five straight games, dropping them 11 games back from the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Hawks (42-9). The Wizards’ offense, fourth in the league in field goal percentage (47.1), has taken a step back during the streak, shooting only 43 percent over the five games.
The frustration has begun to show. In their loss in Charlotte on Thursday night, DeJuan Blair was seen screaming at Kris Humphries after they both competed for a rebound against, which subsequently led to the ball deflecting out-of-bounds. Watch:
Bradley Beal, who’s questionable for tonight’s game with a bruised toe, confirmed the team’s frustration after the game. “We just got to get back to having fun… We lost sight of that a little bit. We lost sight of what it is to win again, and we’re just so tight and pressed, and we’re just trying to do too much. We’re just too tight, man. We just need to be loose, play freely, amp each other up again and just be natural and just play freely.”
The Nets and Wizards last met three weeks ago, when the two teams took turns winning on each other’s home courts in back-to-back games. In the first game, the Nets crushed the Wizards 102-80 behind 26 points from both Jack and Lopez. The next night in Brooklyn, despite another outstanding game by Jack (22 points, eight assists), the Wizards won 99-90 behind some effective frontcourt shooting: Marcin Gortat, Nene, Humphries, and Kevin Seraphin combined to score 55 points on 24-32 shooting (75 percent).
Kevin Garnett will likely sit out tonight’s game per back-to-back game protocol after an impressive 12-point, nine-rebound, and three-block performance against the Knicks Friday night. Coach Hollins has yet to confirm the DNP (Coach’s Decision), but will have the added benefit of a semi-rested Mason Plumlee who logged only 17 minutes last night.
Tip-off is at 7:00 E.S.T. at Verizon Center in Washington D.C.