Nets Shellack Wizards: Playoffs On The Horizon

Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman in a state of distress.
Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman in a state of distress.

Sometimes an opposing coach’s face says it all.

Without All-Star John Wall, the disheveled Wizards slogged through basic offensive sets, committing 21 turnovers that became 38 Nets points in a 117-80 blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.

With the win, the Nets improve to 37-42 on the season, good for eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, one game over the Indiana Pacers and two over the Miami Heat. The Nets hold the tiebreaker over the Pacers, putting their magic number to make the playoffs at two with three games remaining.

The Wizards got out to a slow start and stayed slow for most of the game. They committed three shot-clock violations in the first quarter alone, shot 32-for-82 (39 percent) from the field, and outside of a hot shooting streak by Bradley Beal in the middle of the game, never stood a chance.

“Obviously, at the start of the game our defense was just beautiful,” Lionel Hollins said. “We made very few mistakes, we rebounded the ball as well, and I thought for a quarter and a half we played outstanding defense and the offense was good.”

But the Nets knew they got a little lucky with the matchup.

“They’re definitely a different team without (Wall) out there,” Deron Williams admitted. “You can tell. Any time you’re missing a guy that averages ten assists a game, guys aren’t going to get the same looks. His speed in transition is hard to simulate. We just wanted to exploit that, attack that, and I thought we did a great job tonight.” After the shellacking, the Wizards have been outscored by 7.7 points per 100 possessions with Wall off the floor, the worst of any Wizards player.

Perhaps Wall’s impact was on former Nets forward Paul Pierce’s mind when he was if the Nets were a tough matchup. “Nah, I wouldn’t say that,” Pierce analyzed, before complimenting Brooklyn’s paint-oriented gameplan.

It almost turned ugly. Behind a Bradley Beal scoring explosion, the Wizards crawled back into contention. After the entire Wizards team scored just 18 points in the first 16 minutes, Beal rattled off 24 points in exactly 11 minutes of game time, whittling what was a 27-point Nets lead to just ten at multiple points throughout the third quarter with a varied array of three-pointers of curl screens, layups, and mid-range jumpers.

But the Nets rode Bogdanovic’s hot hand in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wizards 42-18 in the last 12 minutes, and the Wall-less Wizards never stood a chance.

“When coach gives us the package, it’s just going out there and executing to the best of our abilities, and just playing basketball,” Thaddeus Young said. “Like I said, we have a lot of guys that can play basketball and a lot of guys that know how to play basketball and make the right plays at any given moment. We have guys that can take off on you.”

Behind 26 points (20 in the first half) and nine rebounds from Brook Lopez, and a 22-point outburst from Bojan Bogdanovic that included a perfect 6-for-6 from beyond the arc, the Nets built a 27-point lead in the first half and dominated the fourth quarter.

The Nets racked up points in the most efficient ways possible, getting open shots at the rim, from three-point range, and drawing fouls. 105 of the team’s 117 points either came from in the paint (54), beyond the arc (36), or at the line (15), including 40 of their 42 fourth-quarter points.

29 of their 45 baskets were assisted (with nine assists each from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson), many on easy backdoor cuts for layups and open three-point shots, and they committed just six turnovers on the night, as many as the Wizards had in the first quarter alone.

The team has now recorded at least 20 assists in each of their last ten games, and 25 or more in six of those games.

“(We’re) being aggressive, being sharp, doing the little things,” Jarrett Jack said. Jack finished with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, one of his more efficient games in some time. “Sharp cuts, screens, and then just exhausting all your options. That’s what they’re there for.”

“It’s really fun to play like that,” Deron Williams added. “I think it benefits everybody. We’re playing like a team. We’re not playing like a group of individuals that was thrown out there, we’re playing like a team right now. I think that’s been the difference.”