Nets’ defensive woes continue in loss to Wizards

  • Staff Writer
  • Joined ESPN in 2018
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NEW YORK – Kyrie Irving’s pull up 3-pointer in the final seconds of the Nets’ Sunday night game bounced off the back of the rim. Kevin Durant’s elbow jumper at the buzzer was off and just like that, the Nets fell to the Wizards 123-122 and slipped below .500.

After getting off a formidable start, Brooklyn has lost four out of its last five games. But it isn’t the missed jump shots that are concerning coach Steve Nash. Eventually, Nash said, he has confidence that this offensively talented team will get those shots to fall. After all, Irving is known for his dagger threes and that pull up shot from Durant has been historically lethal.

But Nash is noticing a pattern to his team’s issues: “defensive lapses, offensive rebounding and turnovers.”

The Nets have placed a particular emphasis on defense since training camp, with Nash saying that they hardly spent any time working through their offense. Still, their defense continues to falter. After a game against the Hawks earlier this week, Durant, Irving and Jeff Green all gave speeches on the need to improve.

But against Washington, defensive miscues persisted. Kevin Durant had several discussions on the court with Joe Harris after messy defensive possessions. At one point in the first quarter, Harris collapsed toward the baseline where Rui Hachimura was driving on Durant. In the process, Harris left his man, Deni Avdija, open. On the next dead ball, Durant appeared to tell Harris not to help him.

Heading into the break, Harris fought through a screen and fouled Russell Westbrook on a 3-point attempt. A seemingly frustrated Harris walked to the sidelines and hit a padded barrier next the court. After the buzzer sounded, Durant walked over to Harris to discuss the play.

“I told guys, if I got somebody inside the 3-point line and they pick their dribble up, there’s no need for you to help,” Durant said after the game. “And Joe understood. He can guard it one-on-one. I think we’re all starting to understand each other even more. It’s only going to get better.”

It didn’t get much better in the second half. With 7:35 to go in the third quarter, Hachimura caught a lob from Westbrook and finished the one-handed slam easily. Immediately afterward, Irving appeared to hold his hands up and signal a timeout to the referee before checking with Nash. When asked about the exchange after the game, Irving said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It’s not going to be put together overnight,” Irving said. “Nor am I expecting it to, nor am I going to get frustrated over six games or however many games we’ve played. The object of this regular season is to continue to get better and to prepare for the 16 wins in the playoffs. So, I’m just gonna enjoy this.”

Heading into Sunday’s game, the Nets were last in second chance points allowed, giving up 20.6 per game. Washington was able to score 17 second chance points.

“There’s a lot of really good teams trying to find themselves,” Nash said. “Here we are in a little struggle, and you know what? It’s good for us. It’s good to get a little tension. We’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, so here we are. We’re a little uncomfortable, and it can help us grow.”

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