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After big win, Nets welcome Wizards to Barclays Center

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Most satisfying win in, what, 20 years? Maybe since Vince Carter silenced the haters in Toronto? Other Nets wins were bigger, like Game 5 in the Milwaukee series last year. But satisfying? Nah.

Now, after two post-trade deadline wins — one a blowout, one a phenomenal comeback — the Nets will welcome a remade Washington Wizards who will be without Bradley Beal (left wrist), Spencer Dinwiddie (dispatched to Dallas) and Kristaps Porzingis (rest). After a promising start, things went south in Washington, a team that resembles John F. Kennedy’s description of their home city, all northern charm and southern efficiency.

The big fear, of course, is that following the huge win at The Garden and the approaching All-Star Break, there could be a letdown. And the Turks and Caicos beckon.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET.

Injuries

Joe Harris remains out. Kevin Durant is out as well and Ben Simmons has just begun his open-ended ramp-up. The performance team has just started to draw up a regimen to get him back on the court. Kyrie Irving still can’t play in New York. KD and Simmons will likely be on the bench, as they were vs. the Knicks. Is it possible someone gets a rest? Sure. We’ll have to wait and see.

Bradley Beal had wrist surgery and is out. Kristaps Porzingis is resting after arriving from Dallas in a deal that sent Spencer Dinwiddie who had a disappointing season and supposedly rubbed teammates the wrong way. So is another big man, Daniel Gafford whose issue is conditioning. Rui Hachimura is day-to-day (ankle sprain) is day-to-day.

The game

The Nets won two of the three previous games with the Wizards, on October 25 in Brooklyn and January 19 in Washington when David Vanterpool lost $10,000 after he deflected a pass from the bench. Sleight of hand, we called it. Then, on February 10, the night of the trade deadline, the Nets lost in a battle of depleted rosters. It was their 10th straight.

This is a rescheduled make-up game for the Nets and Wizards, one of three the league shoehorned into the schedule after COVID racked the league. Otherwise, everyone would be headed to home, vacation spots or in the case of All-Star Captain Kevin Durant and 3-point shooting contestant Patty Mills, a rendezvous with talented friends in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Wizards are coming off a 113-108 loss Wednesday night to the Pacers in Indiana so there will be no back-to-back bias. Both teams should be bushed. Of course, the Nets are coming off a win and arrived in Brooklyn by bus, the Wizards after a loss by plane.

Kevin Broom of our sister site, Bullets Forever, had this assessment ...

[T]he Wizards were terrible on defense (again) and basically average on offense. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made threes (5-8) and got 3 steals. Raul Neto hit a couple threes and handed out 8 assists, and Kyle Kuzma had an inefficient 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Kuzma shot just 9-27 from the floor and committed three turnovers. His 6 made threes brought his shooting to a 44.4% efg. League average is 52.6%. The Wizards shot 52.2% for the game.

What’s the problem inside the Beltway? A lot of things apparently. Bradley Beal’s situation before his injury wasn’t good. He wasn’t playing at peak efficiency and Spencer Dinwiddie was disappointing and reportedly wasn’t getting along with teammates. So that experiment ended quickly. Kyle Kuzma is notoriously inconsistent and inefficient (see above.) Now, they will try to make Kristaps Porzingis (and his huge contract) whole and a cornerstone along with Beal ... assuming he stays, which is not a given.

If “mediocre” strikes you as a word to describe the Wizards, you’d probably be right. They’re just outside the play-in tournament and just ahead of the Knicks with a 26-31 record. Of their last 13 games since January 19, they’ve lost 10.

It would be wrong to say the Nets are on a roll. A two-game winning streak following an 11-game losing streak doesn’t qualify, but we have entered an era of good feelings and a win going into the break — with the hope of Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons returning in the days afterwards — would be a blessing for the team and its fans after such a tumultuous couple of weeks.

Player to watch: Kyle Kuzma

Yes, he is inefficient. Yes, he is inconsistent. Yes, his clothes sense is, uh, unique, but Kyle Kuzma is all the Wizards have right now on offense. His numbers aren’t bad at first glance: 16.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and nearly a block per game, but his shooting splits of 45/34/70 are more telling. Yes, he’s picked up the slack of late, averaging nearly 20 points and nine rebounds in February.

With so little firepower available to Wes Unseld Jr., expect the Wizards to feature him early and late. And he has incentive. He was irate about Vanterpool’s deflection of the pass that was intended for him back in January, first calling a timeout to argue the non-call, then blasting everyone in sight post-game.

“That was also horses–t too,” Kuzma said. “Coaches should not be able to stand up,” he said, later adding, “You’ve got Steve Nash blocking the ref’s view. He can’t see s–t.”

From the Vault

It was back last May that Kevin Durant’s documentary about growing up and getting good in Prince George’s County, MD — “Basketball County: In the Water” — aired on Showtime. It was his tribute to those who helped him and played with him back then in the Washington ‘burbs. ICYMI, here’s the trailer...

More reading: Bullets Forever.