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Nets bounce back to earn first home win, defeating Wizards, 104-90

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

The Nets defeated the Wizards, 104-90, to earn their first home win of the season. With the win, Brooklyn avoids going under .500 and improves to 2-2 on the season while Washington falls to 2-1.

It wasn’t the prettiest shooting night but it was a bounce-back win. More importantly, it was the smaller details and the disciplined effort that put Brooklyn in a position to get the job done ... with comfort.

“I thought it was a great response from the second half of the Charlotte. I thought we had a great start, which was a response in itself and we suffered from, poor starts. We were much more disciplined on the details,” said Nash on the bounce-back win. “We got back. We matched up. We were physical. Talked, communicated and guys responded. I was really proud of their performance tonight.”

Kevin Durant, who joined the 24,000-point club, led the Nets with a game-high 25 points on 9-of-17 from the field and 1-of-2 from three in 35 minutes. Durant snagged eight rebounds and four assists as well in the win. Harden, who is working on getting his conditioning and confidence back on the court, finished with 14 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in 30 minutes.

Bruce Brown started for the first time this season and delivered his contagious energy and play on both ends — 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field to go with three rebounds in 30 minutes.

“I’m the energizer bunny of the team,” Brown said. “Once I get going, everyone else gets going because they have to worry about me rolling, Joe and his threes, Kevin is going to do what Kevin does regardless, but I just try to bring energy to get our offense going.”

Patty Mills continued to excel off the bench for Brooklyn early, delivering a scoring punch with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 from three. Mills is now averaging 14.5 points a game and shooting 61.5 percent from deep. DeAndre’ Bembry followed with seven points in 18 minutes off the bench.

“He’s a winner,” said Nash about Mills. “He plays the right way. He’s experienced. He’s skilled and brings a great feel to his game: without the ball, defensively, makes our team communicate better, organizes both sides of the ball so well. He brings a lot to the table and is a great addition to our team.”

As a team, Brooklyn shot 42.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three in the victory, better than Washington’s 34.7 and 23.1. Although it was a poor shooting night on both sides, the win showed the importance of the smaller things.

A big improvement on the smaller side was cleaning up the turnovers — a flaw that’s hurt the Nets the first two games. Brooklyn converted Washington’s 12 turnovers into 21 points while suffering a majority of the nine total turnovers in the second half for 11 points.

“Sometimes when you got aggressive scorers that want to make plays, you’re going to get turnovers. You look at the stat sheet and all the best players in the league have four or five turnovers in a game because they are trying to make something happen. I think that’s what we’ve been doing,” said Durant on the Nets turnover struggles. “We got to keep the ball in our hands, win the possession battle and I think tonight was one of those nights. We did that.”

Spencer Dinwiddie, who made his first return to Barclays Center since joining the Wizards, recorded 10 points, six assists, and five rebounds. He also received a tribute video during the second quarter...

Bradley Beal scored 19 points in his second game of the season, but shot poorly, going 8-of-22 overall and 3-of-13 from three. Some fans had been angered that Beal, who is unvaccinated, was able to play while Kyrie Irving could not under New York City rules which only apply to home team players.

The Nets opened the contest playing small with a lineup of Harden, Harris, Brown, Durant and Griffin and it worked early. Brooklyn hit eight of their first 12 shots and all the starters got involved scoring the ball with Harden facilitating. It didn’t take long for the offense to flow.

“We came out ready early. We came out in our sets and executed early. We played defense physical to get comfortable out there and that’s how we need to play every night,” said Brown on the strong start early.

Nash and the Nets continued and went deeper into their experimenting with rotations and lineups, putting James Johnson, Nic Claxton and Bruce Brown on the floor together for a few minutes with Mills and Durant. Shortly after the unique lineup, Nash added Bembry in the mix for Brown and Brooklyn took off, forging an 18-4 run to balloon their lead to 18 after one.

“I think it’s more second night of a back-to-back early here,” said Nash on the lineup moves in the first. “We gave more guys a little more early of a run and I thought it was great. I thought the guys gave us a lot of energy. In particular, Bruce [Brown] and DeAndre’ [Bembry] were great. I’m really proud of everyone’s contributions.”

Mills provided an instant spark off the bench with 11 points in seven minutes. The offense dished 11 assists off 16 made shots while shooting 59.3 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from three.

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn continued to exploit Washington’s poor defense to start the second. The Nets offense was clicking and quickly grew their lead to a game-high 25 points in the opening minutes. Washington, led by Daniel Gafford, attacked the interior to forge a 10-2 run to trim into the large deficit. Although the Nets had their answers and ended the half on a 28-foot three by Durant over two defenders for his 24,000th point —the Wizards hit the break trailing 59-42 — the second-fewest points allowed since February 10 of last season against the Pacers.

And then it flipped. The Wizards came out of the gates with a 9-0 run to trim the deficit to single digits as the Nets went scoreless for three minutes. Brooklyn needed a bucket and Harden delivered, drilling a 25-foot step-back three and a foul for a four-point play to regain the momentum and push the lead back to double-digits. Both teams struggled to capitalize in making shots in the closing minutes of the third as the Nets held an 82-64 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.

The Nets began to turn it on in the fourth and grew their lead back up to 19 with 6:31 to go. After growing a comfortable lead, the Wizards and Nets released their bench units to finish out the final four minutes of the win.

“I like that when we didn’t make shots to start the second half, we still got stops,” said Kevin Durant. “We still showing them bodies, we still rotating for each other, and we made good plays, so this team was playing with confidence. I think we came here on a second night of a back-to-back and imposed our will on the whole game.”

The Film Room

Many pundits called Patty Mills signing for the mid-level exception the “steal of the offseason.” Through four games, Mills has followed up those strong proclamations with averages of 14.5 points on 52.5% from the field and a blistering hot 64% from three in four games. He’s lived up to the billing.

His ankle breaker on Aaron Holiday stole the headlines, and for good reason. There’s a couple of things to watch.

First, take a look at how he times his “rise” up from the corner to the left wing — right as James Harden prepares his drive to the rim. This creates a nice passing window for Harden to launch a throw-in-style soccer pass to Mills at the top of the key. Aaron Holiday does a nice job recovering out Mills, and here’s where Patty does something special.

The key to being a great shooting specialist is building all types of counters-on-counters. You have to make yourself impervious to defense as someone that isn’t necessarily controlling the flow of the offense with the ball in hand. A one-dribble stepback while changing directions is exactly the type of improvisation that keeps a defense second-guessing itself.

Mills and Durant have also shown strong chemistry in the early goings of this season. Because Mills is so good at filling the corners in transition, Durant has continuously surveyed the floor to see if the defense overreacts in scramble situations. KD’s gravity is the play-creator in the possession below; Mills is the play-finisher. And a damn good one at that.

“Patty makes tough shots,” said Bruce Brown. “I remember guarding him when he was on the Spurs and it was hell. He comes off screens extremely fast and still can get and shoot the ball 100 miles an hour. So just a great player, a great dude to have.”

Keep an eye out for Patty Mills’ Sixth Man of the Year candidacy this season.

KD on USA Basketball board

Five-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird and three-time gold medalist Kevin Durant were among those added to the USA Basketball’s board of directors Monday.

Durant and Bird are among five athlete representatives — all Olympic gold medalists — who were added to the board, which was expanded from 11 to 15 people for this cycle. Joining Bird and Durant are Seimone Augustus, a three-time winner, and Jennifer Azzi and Harrison Barnes, who won gold once.

Retired Army General Martin Dempsey was reelected chairperson. Dempsey, who was Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Barack Obama, is the second person to be elected chair for back-to-back Olympic cycles, following Jerry Colangelo.

Dinwiddie reflects on his return to Brooklyn

After a loss and lackluster performance, Spencer Dinwiddie was his old self in his new gear, talking about his return to the place he called home for five years...

No return by Kyrie Irving supporters

Following Sunday’s anti-vaccine protest and attempted assault on Barclays Center, some Nets officials feared such demonstrations could become a nightly event during the team’s current homestand which lasts another week. Instead it was business as usual at the arena although there was an upgraded police presence and the plaza was cordoned off all day long.

Meanwhile, there was no word from Kyrie Irving on whether he supported Sunday’s protests in his name. Irving who has said he opposed vaccine mandates cannot play home games in New York City under the city’s current rules that require players to get at least one shot.

Several Barclays Center security employees were struck, spat upon and called “Nazis” and “slaves” Sunday by the protesters as they successfully fought off attempts by protesters to enter the building. The protest was the lead story on local news and in the city’s tabloids.

Moreover, protesters chanted “Heil Fauci,” a reference to Brooklyn-born Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious disease program at the National Institutes of Health, and portrayed Mayor Bill deBlasio with a Hitler mustache on placards.

What’s next?

The Nets will continue their homestand on Wednesday, Oct. 27 when the team hosts the Miami Heat at Barclays Center. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 PM ET.

For a different perspective on Monday’s game, check out Bullets Forever — our sister site covering the Wizards.