WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 119-118 on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
Thursday will mark three weeks until the NBA trade deadline, which means the short-term is an evaluation period for the long-term. All of their players are currently available, just as the Wizards' front office is taking a close look at what they need to add and whom they can part with.
Given that, you have to wonder what their executives think about Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn, a team they could see come playoff time. The Wizards were whole, while the Nets were missing Kevin Durant, their best player, plus others like Joe Harris. Yet, Brooklyn still won, though not comfortably.
In fact, it was really close. The Wizards had two chances to win it in the final seconds, as both Kyle Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie missed would-be game-winning threes.
The Wizards also had a dose of, well, let's call it bad luck in this game. The Nets got a break when it appeared that one of their assistant coaches deflected a pass which led to a steal. The refs didn't call it and it led to a momentum shift for Brooklyn.
It was a close game and an interesting one, one that the Wizards lost. They are now 23-22 on the year.
Nets' Big 3
While Durant was out with his left knee injury, the Nets still had three players with decorated résumés lead the charge, as LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up with a huge night. Aldridge had a season-high 27 points (11-15 FG), while James Harden added 18 points and nine assists and road game extraordinairre Kyrie Irving had 30 points (13-23 FG). Those guys combined for 50 of the Nets' 74 first-half points.
Aldridge is having a solid year, now at 36 and in a bench role. He's averaging 13.3 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting a career-high 56.6% from the field. This was the sixth time in 31 games this season he's scored 20-plus points and plays primarily off the bench. What a luxury for Brooklyn to have, a guy that experienced and good in a secondary role. If he stays healthy, Aldridge could be a championship ingredient.
Rotation in flux
Before the game, Wizards acting head coach Joseph Blair said the backend of the Wizards' rotation would depend on match-ups from night to night. At least for now, while they adjust to having a full alotment of players. Indeed, the rotation changed from Monday's group as on Wednesday Deni Avdija played a lot more than he did against the Sixers. After not appearing until the game was well out of hand on Monday, Avdija entered with four minutes left in the first quarter and played a total of 23 minutes against the Nets.
Avdija played well, too, despite getitng into foul trouble because Harden got him a few times on drives to the rim early. Avdija had 13 points five rebounds. He also got some stops on Harden and others. Davis Bertans played eight minutes after being a DNP on Monday. The guys who were out of the mix this time were their back-up point guards, Raul Neto and Aaron Holiday. Instead of using them, Blair went with Bradley Beal and Avdija at point when Spencer Dinwiddie wasn't on the floor.
Off-night for Beal
While Beal returned from his first stint in health and safety protocols in rhythm, it may take Beal some time to regain that form this time around. He scored only 13 points against the Sixers on Monday and on Wednesday vs. Brooklyn had an uneven shooting night. Beal scored 23 points, but shot 7-for-17 including 1-for-8 in the first half. He did, however, add nine assists.
Granted, offense wasn't really the problem for the Wizards overall. They still managed 118 points and had 62 by halftime. Defense was the reason why they lost this game and if they see more games like this now that they have all their players back, the Wizards may have to reconcile with that entering the trade deadline. The Wizards put this group together expecting to have a good defense, but at some point a sample size gets large enough that it can't be ignored.
Rui is warming up
Hachimura had another strong game, his second in a row. He followed up an 11-point outing against the Sixers with 14 points against the Nets. Hachiura shot 5-for-9 from the field and also added five rebounds. What stood out the most, however, was his 3-point shooting. Hachimura went 2-for-4 from long range and is now 4-for-7 going back three games.
His 3-point shot looks improved this season and like he has some added arc on his release. Hachimura has been impressing from long range in practices and that is starting to show in games. If Hachimura can keep that up, it would be a very positive development for the Wizards. He has proven he can score from two-point range consistently. One of the biggest knocks on him has been efficiency. Not only would an improved 3-point percentage help that cause, it would also allow him to score more points than before despite working within a more crowded offense. Hachimura is already very good around the rim and fairly adept in the midrange. A reliable 3-point shot would make him a three-level scorer.