Wizards

Wizards get reality check in loss to the Brooklyn Nets

Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 104-90 on Monday night. Here are five observations from what went down...

Reality Check

The Eastern Conference has a chance to be the deepest it has been top-to-bottom in many years. The days of making the playoffs with a sub-.500 record are probably over. Yet, the gap between the top teams and those in the middle remains vast and the Washington Wizards found that out the hard way on Monday night in Brooklyn.

Where the Wizards ultimately fall remains to be seen, with so many new players and a new coaching staff, it will take time to evaluate them. But one thing is clear: the Nets are a far superior team than the Raptors and Pacers, the two teams the Wizards beat to open their season.

The Nets brought the Wizards crashing back down to Earth by handing them a lopsided loss at the Barclays Center. They blew the doors off early, going up by 25 in the first half. Though the Wizards put up a fight and cut the lead all the way down to 10, the Nets answered quickly and never looked back. It was as if they dozed off momentarily and quickly snapped out of it.

Kevin Durant (25 points, eight rebounds) was dominant offensively, per usual, and an unexpected defensive assignment helped spoil Spencer Dinwiddie's (10 points, 3-13 FG) return to Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the Wizards shot a ghastly 9-for-39 (23.1%) from 3-point range. It was a reminder the Wizards are a work in progress in that regard, as they have opened the year shooting 31.7% from deep.

 

The Wizards, who are 2-1 on the season, got some humble pie in Brooklyn, but it didn't tell us anything new. We knew they aren't as good as the Nets. A more interesting test could come next as they see the Celtics and Hawks. They may not be in the top tier of the East, but how close are they to the second tier? It might be telling, in one way or another.

Kuzma's rebounding

One positive from this game was Kyle Kuzma, who only scored six points but had 13 rebounds. He reached double-figures in rebounding for the third straight game to begin this season. That's important because the Wizards need to backfill the production they lost when Russell Westbrook was traded.

The Wizards ranked 29th in rebounding percentage in 2018-19 and 30th in 2019-20. Last season, they moved up to 19th in large part because they had arguably the greatest rebounding guard in NBA history, a guy who ranked seventh in the league in rebounds per game. Rebounding is crucial, particularly on defense, so Kuzma stepping up to compensate is a great sign.

Beal's return

It wasn't the sharpest return for Beal, though the Wizards of course will take any version of him they can get. He had 19 points and four assists, but also five turnovers and was held to 8-for-22 shooting. Beal went 3-for-13 from long range.

Beal didn't appear to be 100 percent, as he wasn't as quick as usual in his cuts and jab steps, but he looked fluid overall, a good sign it won't be an issue moving forward. What could be interesting, though, is that the Wizards have a back-to-back coming up against good teams. They play in Boston on Wednesday, then return to Washington to host the Hawks the next night. 

Dinwiddie's shooting

It's very early in the season, like extremely early, like the Wizards have only played 3.7% of their regular-season schedule. But so far, Dinwiddie is not looking like a guy who arrived in Washington with career shooting percentages of 41.1 from the field and 32.0 from three. Dinwiddie only had six points, but he did make two threes.

He's never been a high-efficiency guy, but that continues a trend to start the year. He's now 8-for-15 from 3-point range. While rehabbing his ACL injury over the past nine months, all he could do for a while was shoot. So, maybe it's a sign of improvement and more to come. If Dinwiddie can develop into a reliable 3-point shooter, that contract could look like a bargain sooner than later.

Bench came up short

Though depth is considered a strength for the Wizards, it didn't look like it on Monday night. Their bench combined for just 31 points, a number that was inflated by about four minutes of garbage time. Though the Nets' second unit wasn't much better as a group with 38 points, Patty Mills made a major difference with 21 points for the game. He had 11 in the first quarter along and shot 5-for-9 from three on the night.

 

A lot of the guys the Wizards expect to change the momentum of games just weren't able to. Montrezl Harrell had 10 points, Raul Neto had two, so did Deni Avdija, while Davis Bertans went scoreless. The Wizards' roster is designed around depth, to the point where they should be able to find a hot hand or two on any given night. If a few guys aren't playing well, by sheer numbers someone should be in a groove. Not this game.

Unfortunately, Neto also left with an apparent left shoulder injury. He collided with Durant in the fourth quarter and had to leave for the locker room wincing in pain. He's a tough player known for fighting through injuries, but it didn't look good.