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KD vs. KP: Nets continue home-stand with matchup vs. Wizards

Kevin Durant and Kristaps Porzingis headline Wednesday night’s matchup between the Nets and Wizards

Brooklyn Nets v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Okay, back to reality. The Nets must have contacted the fire department to come and extinguish the Barclays Center after Kevin Durant torched everything in the building on his way to 45 incendiary points on Monday night. Brooklyn’s win over the Orlando Magic felt good more than it deserved to be as a feel-good win. That said, witnessing an icon turn in a Hall of Fame performance certainly brightens the spirits. (Just don’t tell NetsDaily commenters that.)

Further inspection beyond Durant’s individual brilliance paints a bit dimmer picture, though. Orlando’s back-court rotation consisted of Harrises Gary and Kevon, as well as R.J. Hampton. The Magic shot below 60% from the free-throw line. And yet, Brooklyn had to sweat it out while taking another injury lump, thanks to Ben Simmons’ early exit.

Familiar problems plagued Brooklyn, with 16 turnovers preventing Durant’s performance from truly breaking open the game — although KD was a problem on that front as well. Jacque Vaughn joked after the win about putting together a blooper reel, because some of those turnovers were “for the ages”. His words, not mine.

Past that, the Nets just aren’t very deep right now. Five players logged 36 or more minutes. As pleasant as Yuta Watanabe has been, Brooklyn is feeling that loss more than you’d expect or want. Markieff Morris and Patty Mills are subject to consistent DNPs. And although T.J. Warren’s return seems imminent, dependency on real minutes from isn’t too enticing.

And yet, a win is a win. Brooklyn has started this home-stand 2-0. They’ll have a chance to move to 3-0 against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

Where to follow the game

Tip-off is scheduled for just past 7:30 p.m. ET, and the broadcast is all local. YES Network and the YES App have the telecast, and WFAN-FM once again has the radio call.


While Warren works towards a return, he’s still out with that left foot. So too are Yuta Watanabe and Ben Simmons, the latter of whom left Monday’s game with the left knee soreness he’s been dealing with. (You could watch rehab director Stefania Rizzo’s face contort as Simmons headed to the locker room.) David Duke Jr. is also questionable with a non-Covid illness.

On the Washington side, Rui Hachimura is out with a bone bruise in his ankle. Delon Wright is the only other Wizard not expected to play; he’s been MIA since October with a hamstring injury.

The Game

The last meeting between these teams featured Brooklyn dominating Washington so convincingly that the phrase “turning point” kept on popping up after it -- I may have been guilty myself. On November 4, the team was reeling with a. 2-6 record, had just suspended Kyrie Irving, and were flirting with hiring Ime Udoka. It was a mess. Then Brooklyn went into Washington and won by 42 points, It was Brooklyn’s third-largest margin of victory and matched the largest road margin in franchise history.

Is it going to be that easy this time around? Probably not, but the stakes are still fairly high. Washington enters with an 11-10 record, Brooklyn at 11-11. This one’s for all the marbles (play-in position). But while Washington is firmly where they were projected and Brooklyn has disappointed, the month of November has seen different trendiness for these teams. The Wizards have been fiercely average, through and through. Nice and horizontal. Brooklyn is trending up, with, somehow, the 5th-best net rating in the league this month. Who knew? A win won’t be easy, but even with all the missing Nets, and the fact their record is currently inferior, this is a game Brooklyn expects to have.

To do so, they’ll have to shut down a near-mirror image of their own offense. The Wizards get to the rim almost as infrequently as Brooklyn (27th in rim frequency to Brooklyn’s 28th). But that’s what happens when your main scorer is Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis immediately fires up a 16-footer when he touches the ball inside the arc. Washington is one of five teams that takes more mid-range shots than the Fighting Kevin Durants, per Cleaning the Glass. They also take far fewer threes.

That Brooklyn is one of the only teams in the league that cannot play drop coverage with their personnel (sorry, Day’Ron Sharpe) may not hurt them too much vs. Washington. They can’t afford to hang back at the rim anyway.

That’s not the only way in which Washington represents a positive match-up scenario for Brooklyn. Their scariest athlete and best offensive rebounder, Daniel Gafford, pretty much doesn’t play next to Porzingis. Gafford is at just 12 minutes per game on the year; it’s a big reason why Washington is sitting at 24th in offensive rebounding rate. It’s not that Gafford is an unstoppable beast that the Wizards are squandering, though he probably deserves a larger role somewhere else, it’s that his situation represents Washington fairly well. They’re not a physical team. Porzingis may have an All-Star case this year (no, really) but he’s constantly parked on the perimeter. Bradley Beal isn’t pressuring the rim on every possession, but he’s shooting a ridiculous 55% from the mid-range this year, per Basketball Reference. So, yeah, sometimes they struggle with what the Nets do: rim pressure. Generating easy shots doesn’t always happen for them. But Washington will stretch you out; unfortunately for them, Brooklyn is already stretched out.

This is a matchup of similar styles that favors Brooklyn. It could be an Edmund Sumner game, as it was on November 4. Don’t be surprised if Morris and Mills get off the pine to relieve some heavy legs. Washington is not so deep that their bench units can snipe those two off the floor. A three-game winning-streak is there for the taking in Brooklyn. We’ll see if they can snatch it.

Player to Watch

Kevin Durant wasn’t the only NBA player to put up a 40-piece on Monday night. Kristaps Porzingis had a career-high 41 points. He scored 29 of those points in the first half, hitting his sixth three’s at the 2:16 mark of the second quarter. It wasn’t a fluke for the now 27-year-old. Healthy — having missed only one game this season — KP is indeed having a good year. He’s averaging 21.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 blocks and indeed could be a handful for Brooklyn who’ll be without Ben Simmons.

From the Vault

Lot of Vince Carter talk these days. From myself and the commenters. Let’s keep it up with his four-dunk game vs. the Wizards from 2005:

The ease of that windmill at 1:40. Holy H, man.

Further reading can be found at Bullets Forever.