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Shorthanded Nets hit All-Star break with defeat at hands of Wizards, 117-103

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

After overcoming an 11-game losing skid, Brooklyn had their chance to hit the All-Star break with a fresh three-game winning streak but in a contest that was determined by a game of runs, they fell to the Wizards on a frustrating note.

The Nets were defeated, 117-103, at Barclays Center Thursday night. With the defeat, Brooklyn hits the All-Star break with a 31-28 on the season and a 13-15 record at home.

In that game of runs which team can get stops matters. In the fourth, Brooklyn couldn’t make a stop down the stretch and in fact had defensive and other mental breakdowns throughout the contest. The biggest difference-maker was points in the paint — an area the Nets got thrashed, 52-28, despite it being a Washington weakness.

“They made some big shots. Ish Smith made a bunch of shots down the stretch. They made we missed, and I thought the guys worked really hard,” said Steve Nash after the 117-103 loss. “I think JJ [James Johnson] was a big miss for us tonight. The one guy that can really create separation off the dribble and facilitate offense for us. We just really couldn’t get enough going offensively; paint touches and spreading the ball around and getting cleaner looks. We were just really small as well.”

Patty Mills showed a preview of what’s to come during Saturday’s 3-Point Contest at All-Star weekend, shooting 8-of-14 overall and going 5-of-7 from 3-point range. The veteran guard ended the loss with a team-high 22 points, two boards, three assists, three steals, and a block in 30 minutes of run.

“I thought he did great,” said Nash on Mills’ performance Thursday night. “It’s tough asking him to create a lot of stuff out there. He’s played more minutes than he ever has in his career. Coming off a world-championship Olympics. He’s had a big workload for us, so I think three games in four nights at the end of a ton of minutes is a lot to ask.”

Cam Thomas picked up right where he left off at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night with 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field and 3-of-9 shooting from behind the arc. The rookie, now averaging a little over 20 points a game in the last eight, also dished four assists and grabbed two boards in his effort. Jevon Carter followed with a pair of timely threes and concluded with 14 points in 19 minutes off the bench. For the 25-year-old, it was the latest positive effort. In the last eight games, he’s hitting nearly 50 percent from deep. LaMarcus Aldridge added a key scoring punch off the bench 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field.

The Nets started Mills, Curry, Bruce Brown, Kessler Edwards and Andre Drummond against the Wizards. Early on, Washington executed a series of easy buckets in the interior while Brooklyn missed a handful of good looks mixed with bad passes. The opening minutes consisted of a 13-8 Wizards advantage.

The scoring subsided for both squads midway through the frame. The Nets got a quick six-point boost from Thomas off the bench, but Brooklyn ended the quarter on a hot note. Carter scored the team’s final five points, which included a midrange jumper buzzer-beater, to lead the Nets to a 28-26 lead after one.

Brooklyn started the second with an emphasis on clogging the paint — an area of the floor Washington scored 14 of their 26 points in. The strategy backfired as the Wizards found a rhythm from deep, compiling an 11-1 run. The run did gain separation due to a 7-0 burst response by the Nets — led by the sharpshooting of Mills (17 points on 6-of-9 shooting overall and 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range at the half).

In a weird first half solely based on a game of runs, it wasn’t the way the Nets wanted to end the second, giving up a series of transition buckets off careless turnovers (nine turnovers at the break that turned into 12 points for Wizards). Washington ended the first half on a 9-0 run while Brooklyn went scoreless in the final three minutes of the second. At the break, the Wizards held a 55-51 lead.

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Wizards run spanning back to the second quarter expanded to an 18-0 run, leaving the Nets scoreless in the opening minutes of the third period. In that span, Brooklyn missed 14 shots. Washington came out of the locker room with a much higher defensive intensity, forcing Brooklyn into tough shots and building a double-digit lead.

Following an off-the-dribble David Duke Jr. posterizing slam over Daniel Gafford, it provided the Nets with the energy punch they needed. The Nets started to find a rhythm, trimming the double-digit deficit to three points with 2:58 left in the third. After a pair of triples by Carter and Thomas in the closing minute, Brooklyn hit the final quarter of play with the scoreboard knotted up at 78.

Washington opened the fourth on an 8-2 burst due to handfuls of defensive breakdowns, leading Nash to call a quick timeout. Brooklyn, who couldn’t get off clean looks to begin the fourth, continued to pile defensive breakdowns that led to Washington expanding their lead to 11 points (97-86) with 6:28 left.

The Nets got within six points entering the final two minutes of the contest but the team got in the way of themselves through careless play. Despite Thomas hitting two mid-range jumpers to pull Brooklyn within six, the Wizards capitalized in transition late and continued to drive-and-kick to shooters along the perimeter. Rui Hachimura buried a straight on 26-foot three dagger to put the Wizards up 113-101 with 1:30 left.

What’s next

Brooklyn Nets Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Nets have finally hit the seven-day NBA All-Star break. Patty Mills will be the only Net representing Brooklyn at All-Star Weekend, participating in the 3-Point Shooting Contest on Saturday. For the team, Brooklyn will return from the break on Thursday, February 24 when the team hosts the Boston Celtics. The game is slated to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Thursday night’s contest, check out Bullets Forever — our sister site covering the Washington Wizards.