From The Other Side: The Anatomy of Brooklyn’s Blowout Loss in Washington | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

From The Other Side: The Anatomy of Brooklyn’s Blowout Loss in Washington

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Updated: March 25, 2017

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the visiting Brooklyn Nets.

On Thursday night, while the Washington Wizards rested, the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Phoenix Suns, 126-98. That win allowed the Nets to achieve three significant season milestones: Their largest win (28 points), their first win streak (two), and the first time in franchise history they had six bench players score in double figures.

Brooklyn trailed Phoenix by 10 points after the first quarter, then head coach Kenny Atkinson called timeout to yell, scream and throw a clipboard to emphatically implore his team to play with passion and a bit more effort. The Nets responded by outscoring the Suns 104 to 66 the remainder of the game. Message received.

After the game, Atkinson had a choice: Do we travel south to Washington, D.C., arrive late, have a shootaround in the morning, and take the traditional path NBA teams follow when they have back-to-back games; or do we sleep in our own beds, wake up early, and travel to D.C. on the day of the game? He chose the latter.

Six minutes into their tilt against the Wizards, Atkinson’s travel decision appeared to be a stroke of genius. The Nets led 11-4 on the road, mainly thanks to five quick points by Jeremy Lin and careless decisions by John Wall (who, battling the effects of a migraine headache, was questionable to play entering the game) and Markieff Morris. But just as Atkinson had called timeout the previous night to stop his team’s substandard effort on both ends of the floor, Wizards coach Scott Brooks did the same thing in an effort to reel in his team in — and it worked. The Wizards went on a 27-11 run, and they led 31-22 once the first quarter ended. The Nets never got closer than nine points the remainder of the game.

Washington outscored Brooklyn 32-20 in the second quarter to extend their lead to 21 points. The Nets came out of halftime playing inspired ball and cut the lead to 14 points with 5:23 left in the third quarter, but the Wizards, as they’ve been doing intermittently the past month or so, pulled out just enough offensive magic to keep a comfortable lead throughout the third quarter. The Nets ended up losing by 21 points to the Wizards, who clinched a playoff berth.

Prior to his postgame presser, Atkinson had plenty of excuses at his disposal as to why his team lost so badly to the Wizards. He could have blamed the timing of his travel between cities, the difficulties of playing the second night of a back-to-back, the talent disparity between his team and the opponent, or he could simply look inward and blame the loss on the substandard job of the coaching staff. He chose all of the above.

First, he highlighted the ability of the Wizards’ bigs (Marcin Gortat, Jason Smith, Markieff Morris, and Ian Mahinmi) to guard their perimeter defenders, then the lack of energy of his team on the second night of a back-to-back, and finally the paltry performance of his bench (57 points), which was far short of the 81 points they scored the prior night against Phoenix.

Next, Coach Atkinson decided to contrast the performance of his bench with the suddenly prolific Wizards bench, as well as criticizing the timid play of his offense. Washington’s bench, which was justifiably criticized early in the season, has been injected with an energy boost of sorts, thanks to former Brooklyn Net Bojan Bogdanovic and former New York Knick Brandon Jennings. The Wizards’ bench accounted for 70 of their 129 points, and Bogdanovic and Jennings accrued 35 of those bench points. Jennings, who had nine assists to go with his 18 points — his highest total as a Wizard — played a sizable role his team’s success by pushing the pace John Wall initially set and making the Nets uncomfortable. Coach Atkinson had no problems discussing how flummoxed this made his team.

A member of the Nets media asked Atkinson point blank if the decision to travel on the same day was a justifiable scapegoat for such a lopsided loss. Based on the laws of coachspeak, it would have been perfectly understandable for Atkinson to roll out the “that’s no excuse, all NBA teams put their pants on one leg at a time” platitudes. When Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was asked about the same day travel, he said that it didn’t matter and all NBA teams face adversity. Coach Atkinson was a bit more reflective with his comments:

“We will evaluate how it went, what we can do better, but that is a good point. We definitely will look at that. How did the guys react? How did the coaches react to it? Obviously, the result is not very good. If we are just going on the result, it was not a smart move by the coach but then again, I do not regret it. It is part of finding out, being more efficient in what we do.”

Jeremy Lin, who had not played in the previous two Wizards-Nets matchups due to injury, finished Friday night’s game with 14 points and three assists in 20 minutes. He scored five of the Nets’ first seven points, he blocked a Markieff Morris shot early in the first quarter, and by halftime he had 10 points. His team was not playing well, but it looked as Lin was fully engaged and prepared to give Wall and Jennings fits in the second half. But after scoring the opening basket of the second half to cut Washington’s lead to 19 points, Lin was virtually a no-show the remainder of the game. He had two fouls and a turnover in the 7:04 he played in the third quarter, and as the Wizards began to make the game a laugher, he did not re-enter.

Afterward, Lin had both his knees and feet ensconced in ice and he slowly shook his head and stared at the box score. When the media came to him, Lin reluctantly spoke but was eventually quite candid with his comments and his role in his team’s blowout loss. Lin blamed himself for Brooklyn’s poor performance, and he specifically blamed his inability to get the team meaningful possessions and shots every time down the floor. He also took full responsibility for Brook Lopez’s quiet night. Lopez entered the game averaging 20.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and five 3-point attempts and nearly two makes per game. He finished with just six points, seven rebounds and no 3-pointers made in just two attempts. Lin took responsibility for that, too. “I just look at the box score and think that I need to get Brook a lot more involved. I feel like he had a relatively quiet night. I have to be able to get him more touches.”

Lin also cited the spacing and scoring brilliance of both Wall and Beal.

From a distance, Washington’s blowout win looks like the latest in a series of malaise-causing events for a 15-57 Brooklyn team. But the Nets came into D.C. looking for their first three-game win streak of the season and their first win on the second night of a back-to-back. They are a team which has taken pride in their ability to play hard every night despite the dearth of talent — something Scott Brooks made his business to praise the Nets for during his pregame presser. They really haven’t had too much to look forward to this season, but a potential victory over the Wizards would have surely given them a sliver of joy in late March.

But the cold reality is that the Washington Wizards, even with their inconsistent play and their fleeting effort on the defensive end of the floor, are the third-best team in the Eastern Conference and one of the top ten teams in the NBA. Brooklyn gave a valiant effort in the first few minutes of the game and again in the third quarter when they scored 39 points to Washington’s 34. But all that added up to a 21-point loss, a fourth quarter featuring borderline taunting and laughter by the Wizards, depressing explanations with long faces, and forced optimism about the possibilities of positivity that the next game might bring.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.