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Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can’t hit in final seconds as Nets fall to Wizards, 123-122

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Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It was a tough loss in Brooklyn. It was also not pretty. In another tight one, the Brooklyn Nets suffered their fourth loss in five games, losing to the Washington Wizards, 123-122. The Nets are now 3-4 on the season.

Despite the Nets 3-4 start, Steve Nash stressed patience following the loss. He does not want his players to get overly frustrated with the team’s start, viewing it as good so his players can experience it early in the season.

“It’s early. We can’t lose our minds over it,” Nash said about the Nets start. “We can’t get overly frustrated and can’t feel too much tension. There are a lot of good teams still trying to find themselves and we are new. We got a first-time head coach, a new staff, a bunch of guys that haven’t played together. With a short training camp, that made it difficult and here we are in a little struggle but it’s good for us. It’s good to get some tension, some uncomfortable, and got to get comfortable so here we are feeling a little uncomfortable and it can help us grow.”

It came down to the final seconds and although the Nets got the ball to their two superstars, both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant missed shots. Bottom line, down by one, the two just couldn’t hit when the Nets needed it most. Irving missed a 27-foot three with 5.9 seconds and in their last hope, Kevin Durant missed a 12-foot pull-up with 1.5 on the clock as the Wizards escaped with the win.

“We wanted to push it fullcourt and we had two screens on the ball and Kai had a shot that I am really comfortable with him taking,” Nash said on the final shots. “Kevin got a good look at it as well so unlucky for them two not to make the last shot but we put ourselves in that position.”

Durant played like an MVP caliber player. He finished with another 20+ point performance, becoming the sixth Net to hit the mark in six straight games - finishing with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists in 38 minutes. He joined Irving (2019-20), Richard Jefferson (2007-08), and Vince Carter (2006-07) as the only Nets to record that mark and he did it in the first six games. Durant also became the first Net to score 25+ points in five straight games since Deron Williams - who did it six times during the 2011-12 season.

Although having another glamourous performance, Nash wants to see Durant get more shots while acknowledging the Wizards pregame comments about Durant’s shooting.

“For sure,” Nash said about Kevin Durant getting more shots. “We can have Kevin shoot as many times as possible. Having said that, 28 points, got to the line twelve times so that maybe disguised shot attempts, 11 rebounds, seven assists so he did a lot of things for us.

“The other team did say let's not let Kevin Durant shoot every time on the floor so there is some balance to be found and if we can get him a few more looks good but I think he was pretty big tonight for most of the game.”

Irving also delivered another high-level performance, finishing with 30 points, five rebounds, and 10 assists in 39 minutes. With both players playing at a high level, they made sure to let their teammates know how they were feeling about the on-going defensive struggle as the Nets continue to search for the D in defense: their No. 1 priority.

Although the Nets offense finished the game shooting 49.4 percent overall and 43.8 percent from deep, Brooklyn again struggled taking care of the ball, turning over the ball 20 times. Along with their heavy pile of turnovers, well their defense was tested.

Nash viewed the Nets' 20 turnovers as uncharacteristic, careless, and strained ones. It is one of the areas the Nets coach plans on cleaning up.

“Careless. I didn’t think there were a lot of turnovers under great pressure so I thought it was uncharacteristic,” Nash said about the Nets turnovers.

“Like I said, I thought it was uncharacteristic,” Nash said. “It wasn’t like we were having trouble generating offense. A lot of them were just strained ones. A bit of this, a bit of that, careless, and it wasn’t like we weren’t getting ourselves in position or we were being pressured turning the ball over. It was simple mistakes. It is something we definitely have to clean up. We can’t obviously have a 23 shot deficit and win. Obviously, we had two looks at it to win so lots to clean up and the turnovers were uncharacteristic.”

Jarrett Allen, meanwhile, attributed that 23-shot deficit to rebounding. The Wizards, of course, came into the night as the 20th-best rebounding team in the league with 8.3 offensive boards per game, yet came away with 13 against the Nets. Not good.

“Hand it to Washington tonight. They have a lot of guys that can offensive rebound. Russell Westbrook, Robin Lopez, Thomas Bryant. All of them are great at classing the glass. Athletic guys too––no offense to Robin––but everybody else is an athletic guy. It’s hard to box out when they’re crashing from the three-point line. It’s hard to get a body because they can swim move over you. It’s just stuff that we have to put more insistence on.”

The Nets defense was tested from the jump. The Wizards play fast - entering the game fourth in the league in pace, filled with shooters, and an arsenal of young fire-power. From the usual issues of over-helping to odd switches leading to mismatches and more, Durant provided some leadership.

Durant pulled Harris aside to discuss previous plays on the defensive end, giving his input on what should have been done. From Durant telling Harris in the first quarter - “Don’t help me” when Harris over-helped, Durant showed signs of his leadership. And Irving chastised Caris LeVert when he got emotional over what he thought was a bad call and earned a technical.

When asked about the interaction between himself and Joe Harris following the halftime buzzer, Durant explained it was revolved around overhelping.

“I think one time I had my guy bottled up and I’ve seen someone outside of my eye coming over I guess trying to give some resistance but I told guys ‘if I got somebody inside the three-point line, they pick their dribble up, there is no need for help’ and Joe understood,” Durant said about the ‘don’t help me’ interaction. “I also told him that he can guard so he doesn’t have to help so much on him so he can guard one-on-one. We are all starting to understand each other even more and it is only going to get better.”

“It is always good to hold each other accountable but we are going to try to tone that down throughout the game because we want to react off instinct,” Durant said. “Mentally be on the same page too so we don’t have to talk about everything after each possession so its good battles to have between communicating, flowing with the game, and we will only get better from here.”

As the game progressed, the Wizards continued to sniff out mismatches and capitalized as the Nets showed flashes of frustration. They also attacked the boards, which hurt the Nets late. It is clear that defense will be a learning process that will take time and patience.

While the Nets are still cementing their defensive strategies, Nash sees a pattern in their flaws. It comes down to simple mistakes and the lack of preparation. To Nash, the three main problems overall are simple defensive collapses, offensive rebounding, and turnovers.

“I think there is a pattern,” Nash said. “I think we are making simple mistakes defensively. Not sticking to our gameplan as well as we can and from the treetops, that’s probably somewhat to be expected. We’d like to clean it up quicker and without a lot of practicing time - playing 17 in 31 days in a month, we got to figure out a way to get that done.

“Simple mistakes defensively, talking and recognizing scenarios and situations. The offensive rebounding and turnovers are problems for us. I think we are going to be a team that turns it over a little bit and maybe more than average but tonight was exceptionally high. The rebounding is a good problem so for me those are the three areas: simple defensive collapses, offensive rebounding, and turnovers.”

In the end, three Wizards finished with 20 or more points. The backcourt of Bradley Beal (27) and Russell Westbrook (24) combined for 51 points while Thomas Bryant finished with 21 and 14 rebounds. For the Nets, the next highest scorer had 16 points on 4-of-8 from deep. Jarrett Allen once again played well, with 14 points and 11 boards in 24 minutes.

Kyrie Irving with a long-term view

When asked about what will help his Nets get over the early skip, Kyrie Irving gave a pretty detailed answer as to where his expectations are in Brooklyn.

“I think we have to manage realistic expectations of what we want out of this group right now, every single day, week-to-week, and then month-to-month,” said Irving on Sunday. “And then we put together a few great months of consistent work, consistent progress, consistent craft in a way, consistent communication, then we’ll be okay. We’re committed to it, and I know the guys in the locker room and everyone in this organization are committed to that. We wanna change this whole thing. That’s not an overnight process. I didn’t commit here just for 2 years or 3 years or anything like that. So I’m excited for the journey ahead to continue to get better.”

Interesting. A reminder: Kyrie Irving’s contract expires in 3 seasons, with a player option on his second. So, make of that what you will.

Film Room

So yeah, not exactly the results you’re looking for if you’re Brooklyn. But there’s a silver lining.

Someone’s looking healthy.

Yep, you’re reading this correctly. Today’s highlighted game clip is a missed basket. But holy crap, what a missed basket it was.

I mean, dude.

LOOK AT HOW HIGH HE IS.

After not touching an NBA basketball court for 553 days, Kevin Durant had himself his most promising night yet––from a physical perspective especially. The dude looked crisp, breezing by Rui Hachimura in transition to pop into pull-up baseline jumpers. His motor never stopped purring, as Durant worked as Brooklyn’s facilitator, tossing out 4 first-half assists, finishing with 7 in total. The handle, oh that handle, was looking as tight as a sailor’s knot...

It’s been said a million times, but Kevin Durant is motherfreaking back.

A quick bonus clip as well: Take note, below, of Kevin Durant motivating his guys with some in-game pep-talk. After expressing some light frustration with Brooklyn’s helping patterns, Durant decided to take things into his hands and impart some wisdom onto his teammates. That, right there, is some serious leadership.

Laying waste to opponents with lay-ups

Steve Nash has made rebounding a clear point of emphasis for the Nets, which is something we covered here. But an hour before tip-off, Nash made mention to another category the Nets could greatly improve in.

“Part of our issue is going to be attacking the rim more and defensive rebounding. Those are things we’re going to have to continue to battle and do a good job of. When we make shots, we’re really tough to beat... When we don’t make shots, we gotta find ways to win.”

Nash is spot on with his analysis. As we have detailed before, the Nets are the worst team in the league about giving up offensive rebounds. But more importantly, they’re also 27th in creating at-rim shots with just 27.7% of their total looks occurring within the restricted-area, per Cleaning the Glass. Brooklyn’s offense has a chance to be prolific, as Nash noted, but generating a balanced attack on the floor will be paramount for this Brooklyn squad going forward.

In short, Brooklyn can’t get too jumper happy!

Tough enough?

Bobby Marks, the Nets former assistant GM under Rod Thorn and Billy King, suggests the Nets lack toughness.

Marks didn’t define the “little things” but the Nets are now dead last in second chance points given up and opponent offensive rebounds given up.

Spencer Dinwiddie already going on his ACL rehab

Spencer Dinwiddie took to Instagram, showing he is already going on his ACL rehab. Dinwiddie is expected to undergo surgery to repair his partially torn ACL in his right knee early this week.

Prior to Sunday’s game against the Washington Wizards, Steve Nash explained the value of having Dinwiddie in the lineup. To Nash, Dinwiddie is not only one of the best athletes on the Nets roster but one of the most well-rounded players, who brings a lot to the table. It is clear how much the Nets miss having a healthy Dinwiddie in the lineup.

“He is almost the forgotten guy in a sense when you throw him out there in a lineup but he is about the most well-rounded player we have, along with Kevin and Kai,” Nash said. “He has great size for a perimeter player. He defends multiple positions, he’s one of our best athletes, and he can score, play-make, handle the ball, and brings a lot to the table.

“We miss him. We miss him a lot. He fills a lot of gaps for our team. A team that needs a lot of his attributes. We miss him dearly but that’s professional sports and we got to find a way to grow, improve, and make up for his loss.”

What’s next

The Nets look to bounce back when the Utah Jazz come to Brooklyn on Tuesday, Jan. 5. The game is set to tip-off at 7:30 PM and will be broadcasted on YES Network.

For a different perspective, head on over to Bullets Forever, our Wizards sister site on SB Nation.