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Brooklyn Nets explode in second half to blow out limp Washington Wizards, 124-97

The Nets took a while to get going on Friday night, but once they did, nothing stood in their way. Certainly not the Wizards.

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets entered Friday night’s contest against the Washington Wizards trying not to look ahead. Sure, the Wizards arrived to battle with a ghastly 3-17 record, tied for second-worst in the NBA. However, they’ve lost a lot of close games this year — their net-rating is “only” 5th-worst in the league — including the last time they came to the Barclays Center. In that game, on November 12, the Nets found themselves down five with four to go before making a late push to seal a win.

Point being, these Wizards are just regular bad, not historically awful (like the Pistons.) Brooklyn’s first West Coast swing of the year may lie just up the road, but they knew they couldn’t treat Washington as a simple speed bump on Friday.

Said Day’Ron Sharpe: “You know, you can’t go into the game thinking down on nobody. We all NBA players, anybody can win.”

While the Nets didn’t disrespect the Wizards, it took the home team a while to get going. They frequently stood in their own way, as sluggish offense led to a whole ton of missed shots in the first half. It was ugly. But Washington afforded them time to get going, and it proved to be a fatal mistake.

Brooklyn got going as soon as play resumed in the second half, and rode a balanced scoring attack to a comfortable, blowout victory. Business: handled.

Final score: Brooklyn 124, Washington 97.

Washington seemed eager to prove Day’Ron Sharpe’s pregame comments incorrect, as their brand of first-quarter basketball deserved nothing other than disrepect. As Ian Eagle and Vince Carter — making his YES Network broadcast debut — noted, the Wizards looked like a team feeling the effects of a fun trip to New York City when they turned the ball over on three of their first six possessions.

As a result, Brooklyn took a modest 26-18 lead after 12 minutes, reminiscent of the first matchup between these teams, a low-scoring affair that Jacque Vaughn called “an ugly game.”

Mikal Bridges saved the first quarter from being a complete eyesore, scoring eight quick points on 2-of-3 from three, an area that continues to rebound for him after a slow start:

Bridges was the only player on either side that could throw it in the ocean; outside of him, the two teams combined to shoot 0-17 from three. Yikes.

He credited yet another strong start to “just having the mindset to be aggressive. But I think it all comes out throughout the flow and teammates finding me, just being aggressive. I know my coaches run some plays for me and all that but just aggressive and I know my teammates are looking out for me.”

The second quarter was another repeat of the teams’ mid-November matchup. Brooklyn’s bench, missing Dennis Smith Jr. on Friday, hasn’t been outplayed much this season, but Washington’s reserves did it again. Led by Jared Butler and Mike Muscala, the visitors stopped turning it over and started hitting threes.

The Wizards opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run to take their first lead of the night, but only for a brief moment. It appeared as if the Nets’ offense was going to wake up for good thanks to Day’Day putting in some serious work. He finished the first half with 11 points and four rebounds, and did his typical work on the offensive glass to create second-chance opportunities:

Asked if brute force was the main driver of his rebounding skill, Sharpe gave a characteristic response: “Whatever you want to call, man. Whatever y’all want to call it. I call it talent.”

He and Bridges each shot 5-of-9 in the first half, Brooklyn’s only double-digit scorers through 24 minutes of play. Claxton added an efficient six points and seven boards, showcasing the offensive skills that might improve his new paycheck this offseason:

Unfortunately, those three were the only ones converting their looks. Cam Thomas, making his third consecutive start, shot 3-of-9; Spencer Dinwiddie and Cam Johnson were 1-of-8 and 1-of-6, respectively. As a result, the Nets were shooting just 3-of-18 from deep at the break, and a ten-point lead fell to just 50-47.

Deni Avdija was the Wizards’ best player in the first half, leading his squad with 11 points, as none of his teammates reached double-figures. Keeping Washington’s scorers in check — namely Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma — was not Brooklyn’s problem to open the game, though. It was their offense; for home team to create separation in the third quarter, they’d have to start scoring the rock.

That they did. In Brooklyn’s fourth 40-point quarter of the season, the dam busted open for. Not only did the Nets shoot a healthy 5-of-8 from three, but they scored a ridiculous 22 points in the paint, knifing through a Washington defense that played to their reputation. The third quarter opened with a wide open alley-oop dunk from Dinwiddie to Claxton, and it was a sign of things to come:

Thomas shot 6-of-8 in the period on his way to 17 points on the night, pouring in buckets in the bunches we usually see. Dinwiddie ended up with 14 points on 6-of-15, but added nine assists and four steals. Johnson never got going, finishing with seven points, but it didn’t matter; Brooklyn rolled as one.

Fitting, then, that Dorian Finney-Smith (eight points) reached his 4,000th career point on Brooklyn’s prettiest possession of the night, where the ball hopped from side-to-side-to-side before ending in a 3-pointer:

“It’s amazing, just the psyche,” said Vaughn of his squad’s third-quarter outburst. “And this is a game that we can hopefully look back on. I think we were 3-for-18 at halftime from three, and sometimes when the ball is not going in, that affects your mood, your spirit, your energy, and all of the above. Good thing it was a three-point game. We still had a lead at that time. Came out just more focused. Focused on what we needed to accomplish. I think our activity level was higher in the second half. The ball started going in, sometimes it’s just that simple, seeing the ball go in for you.”

The Nets rolled into the fourth quarter with a 90-71 lead, and from there, they didn't make it anymore stressful than it needed to be. Their center rotation closed out the effort, and finished with shiny numbers. Claxton poured in a stacked 13 and 14 with two blocks; Sharpe notched a double-double himself with 15/11/4, adding three steals and a block in perhaps the best game of his Brooklyn career.

“It’s been really pleasing, just because those two are dudes you really enjoy being around, and for different reasons,” Vaughn said of his two big men. “For them to grow on both ends of the floor and see the growth, I’ve been with them from the beginning and I get a chance to see and push them and want more from them and they want more from themselves...I think they enjoy pushing each other and now there’s some synergy of, ‘Imma pass the baton to you and you’re gonna play your minutes and you’re gonna pass it back to me and we’re gonna try to dominate it from that position.’”

Brooklyn’s other center even got some run as the game descended into true blowout territory down the stretch. In just four minutes, Harry Giles III wasted nary an opportunity, shooting 4-of-6 to finish with eight points, two boards, and a block. Talk about staying ready.”

“I mean, that’s just the mentality,” said Bridges. “Most guys would sulk if they know they’re not playing and stuff like that. And he’s just, you know — his attitude is great every day. You just wouldn’t think he had a bad day, and he works so hard....Shout out to my boy HG. He works hard and waits for his moment, and you know, is always cheering his teammates on and staying confident when he’s ready. And he’s a great teammate.”

The only real fireworks of the fourth quarter, if you can call them that, was Royce O’Neale’s back-and-forth with Avdija, in which the Brooklyn forward came out the clear winner...

In short, one team showed why they’re in the playoff hunt, and one showed why they're not. The first half was beyond sluggish, yes, but all was forgiven for the Brooklyn Nets just 12 minutes of game-time later.

Sure, they beat the Wizards on November 12 as well, but that game required a furious comeback over the final four minutes. This time, the Nets threw their slow start in the trash, playing up to their standards out of the locker room, and not sinking down to Washington’s level. Ultimately, their second-half effort showed up in every category imaginable:

Credit: Brooklyn Nets PR

Mikal Bridges finished as his team’s leading scorer, finishing with a clean 21/4/3 stat line on 9-of-15 shooting, adding two blocks. The Wizards didn’t have a 20-point scorer, as Kuzma, Avdija, and Monte Poole finished with 17, 15, and 14, respectively. Their main bright spot was, once again, rookie Bilal Coulibaly, who notched a double-double with 11 points and ten boards.

Even Coulibaly, competing with all his might on defense, couldn’t keep this one close. Brooklyn gave Washington a half to keep up, then slammed on the gas when they needed to. So, all's well that ends well, and the Nets will head out West sporting a healthy 12-9 record, with some talented opponents on the docket.

Milestone Watch

We’ve got a healthy mix of team and individual accomplishments for the Brooklyn Nets.

  • Their six straight wins over Washington tie the longest streak in franchise history, accomplished two other times.
  • Brooklyn’s 76 points in the paint fell just short of tying their all-time franchise record (78).
  • Nic Claxton matched his season-high with 14 rebounds, good for his fourth double-double of the season.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie matched the team’s (individual) season-high of four steals.
  • Day’Ron Sharpe’s 15 points were also a personal-best on the season, and his three double-doubles in 2023-’24 are a career-high for any season. Sharpe now leads the league in double-doubles off the bench.
  • Speaking off production off the bench, Harry Giles’ eight points mark his best as a Net, and the most points he’s scored in a game since April 3, 2021, as a Portland Trail Blazer.

Standings Watch

At 12-9, Brooklyn is now tied for seventh seed with the Knicks, a play-in spot, but only a half game out of fifth, now occupied by the Pacers and two games back of the 76ers who are currently the fourth seed.

Vince Carter Returns

As mentioned, Vince Carter announced his first game as YES Network’s color commentator, and received a tribute video before play resumed in the second quarter.

On the broadcast, he called former teammate Jacque Vaughn one of his favorite teammates from his 21-year playing career, and in postgame, Vaughn returned the favor: “No, no, no, Imma flip that. He is one of my favorite teammates.”

He continued, “Yeah, you know, usually I don’t do the comparison thing. ‘Oh, give me your top five,’ but I’ll throw him in my top five all-time teammates without a doubt. Unbelievable human being, love having him around, and boy was he a heck of a player. And it’s great to have him in the building, for me to see him at the table tonight. So, a legend.”

Carter will announce nine more games on YES Network throughout the season, including some with former teammate Richard Jefferson.

Injury Update

Dennis Smith Jr. was a late scratch for Friday’s contest, downgraded from questionable to out in a matter of minutes about two hours prior to tip. The Nets termed it as ‘upper back soreness,’ a scary sight for the reserve guard, who just saw lower back soreness morph into a lower back strain, which led to six missed games.

Said Jacque Vaughn in pregame: “Yes, so [his] upper back is not acting right and so, he did participate in walkthrough, shootaround. Whatever we want to call it, it wasn’t a bunch. And then he reported some some stiffness after that. Listed him as questionable, then got reassessed. Tried to get to a place to play and just won’t be able to go tonight.”

Vaughn then clarified it was too early to speculate on Smith’s availability for the West Coast swing, so stay tuned on that front. Brooklyn’s head coach also confirmed Lonnie Walker will not play on the road, though it is currently undetermined if he’ll travel with the team.

Next Up

Denver Nuggets v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets will enjoy a weekend of rest and travel before facing the Sacramento Kings the first team they’ll face on their five-game, seven-day West Coast trip. Tip-off from the Golden 1 Center is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. ET on Monday night, our first late tip of the season.