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James Harden out as Nets complete 3-game road trip with visit to luckless Wizards

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

The hours are getting scarier. With no Kevin Durant, the Nets put on a historic offensive display in Oklahoma City, scoring 147 points, tying the record for most points by a Brooklyn or New Jersey team and had NINE players in double figures, the most in the NBA in 30 years and the most for a Nets team in nearly 40! And James Harden had his third triple-double in eight games as a Net. Again, they did it with a player who’s averaging better than 30 points a game.

Now, it’s on to Washington, whose suburbs produced said basketball phenomenon, one Kevin Wayne Durant of Seat Pleasant, MD. The Nets have won four straight, the Wizards have lost four in a row.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals, NBA TV for the out-of-towners. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7 p.m.


Nicolas Claxton and Spencer Dinwiddie are out. James Harden is too with a left thigh contusion. Norvel Pelle will be available for the first time vs. Washington, but it’s uncertain how much time he’ll get. As Steve Nash said, the coaching staff will have to check on his physical conditioning and readiness to play. Pelle hasn’t played since the Orlando “bubble” when he was with the 76ers.

No word on when newly signed Iman Shumpert will be able to take the court, but don’t expect him to play vs. Washington. Check out what he said a week ago on Twitter...

For the Wizards, Thomas Bryant (torn ACL) is done for the season. Raul Neto (groin) is also out against the Nets, but the Wizards say. Ish Smith, Troy Brown and Deni Avdija (health and safety protocols) will all be available for the first time since January 11. That’s after Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans and center Moritz Wagner rejoined the team Friday after missing more than two weeks.

The game

The Wizards won the first game back on January 3, giving the Nets a losing record at 3-4. The James Harden trade was still days away. The Nets went down 123-122 on Thomas Bryant’s put back dunk.

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.

Since then, the team from the nation’s capital has had perhaps the worst run of any NBA team. It’s a litany of the luckless. They’re 1-7 in that stretch with six postponements, their lone win in that stretch a 128-107 blowout of the Suns back on January 11. It’s hard to build momentum with all those losses and games lost to COVID. Players have been in and out of health and safety protocols.

The Wizards, of course, have a backcourt as dangerous as any outside of Brooklyn, with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. Beal is currently averaging a league-leading 34.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists. His backcourt mate is once again averaging a near triple-double with 18.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 9.6 assists. But it’s not working, thanks mainly to bad luck with COVID-19.

How bad are things? On Saturday, Scott Brooks said Saturday was their first practice with more than eight players in … 25 days. So, it’s hard to tell what Wizards team will show up and what they’ll be able to do.

As for the Nets, with Harden that means a lot more reliance on KD and Ky, which is how the Nets started out the season. Expect Bruce Brown to continue to start. He’ll be needed defensively.

Finally, it will be another reunion Sunday. Scott Brooks, the Wizards coach, was Durant, Harden and Green’s head coach when they played in OKC. Expect COVID-limited contact.

Player to watch: Bradley Beal

DUH! Beal is having a monster season and he’s likely to average 30+ points a game for the second straight season, the first player to do that since ... James Harden, who did it the last last three before this one. In the last month, Beal has had games of 60, 47 and 41 points. In the 60-point game vs. Philly, he was 20-of-36, 7-of-10 and 13-of-15. Interestingly, his 27-point effort against the Nets was his second lowest scoring game of the season. He shot 36 percent at a time when Brooklyn was having bigger defensive issues that are now.

Beal has expressed his frustration, of course, saying after Washington’s latest loss on Friday to the Suns, “It’s tough. We wanna win. I wanna win. This is why I stayed. I wanna win (here). I figure this is the place I can get it done.”

There are rumors that the Lakers might be interested in dealing for him, but once again, word from Monumental Sports, Ted Leonsis’ company, is that that the Wizards aren’t interested in a trade. We shall see. As Fred Katz of The Athletic tweeted...

Of course, the Nets weren’t interested in trading John Wall either and looked what happened there.

From the Vault

Kevin Durant began his basketball journey outside the District of Columbia in Prince Georges County, Maryland aka PG Country. As you might expect, he dominated the Metro DC area as a high school phenom before finding his way to Texas. Take at look at those high school days...

Further reading: Bullets Forever