Paying some respect to the NBA’s worst team before their game Wednesday night at Barclays Center, Washington coach Scott Brooks said the Nets “haven’t given in to their record.” The Nets underlined that sentiment with their feisty fourth-quarter comeback from a 12-point deficit to force overtime, but their record only grew worse with a 114-110 loss that was their 11th straight and 22nd in the past 23 games.
Still, it wasn’t for lack of effort. Trailing 84-72 early in the fourth, the Nets fought back with a 17-5 run spearheaded by some hard-nosed plays by rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead and forward Trevor Booker before a second-effort tip-in by Brook Lopez with 6:21 to play tied it at 89.
The Wizards regained a five-point lead, and it hurt the Nets when Lopez fouled out with 1:20 left on a charging foul that wiped out what would have been the tying basket. Even so, the Nets ended regulation on a 9-4 run to tie it at 100 on a bank shot by Bojan Bogdanovic with 41.9 seconds to play.
The lead changed hands six times in OT and still was tied at 107 after Caris LeVert made one of two foul shots with 1:33 left. But the Wizards got to the foul line and made six straight to build a 113-110 lead. A backcourt turnover by John Wall with 5.9 seconds left gave the Nets a chance, but Bogdanovic missed a potential tying three-pointer.
“We came away with the win, but give Brooklyn credit,” Brooks said after the narrow escape. “They’ve lost a lot of games like this, but they never give in. We’ve been playing good basketball. We know how they play. They are scrappy. They’re fast, they shoot threes, they attack, and we didn’t do a good job of stopping penetration tonight . . . but we made enough plays to win the game.”
Bogdanovic topped the Nets (9-44) with 21 points, Lopez added 20, and they got double-doubles from Booker (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (13 points, 11 rebounds). Washington (31-21) was led by its big three of Bradley Beal (31 points), Wall (23 points, 12 assists) and Otto Porter Jr. (20 points, 10 rebounds).
The Nets were playing the second game of a back-to-back and their third game in four days, so, they figured to be at a physical disadvantage against the Wizards, who had a day to rest after losing a thrilling overtime game at home to the Cavaliers. The Wizards’ All-Star backcourt pairing of Wall and Beal pushed the pace to build a 59-49 halftime lead.
But the Nets began the second half with a 10-4 run that ended with a three-point play by Lopez to cut their deficit to 63-59, and they just kept coming to the end.
“I’m proud of how our guys fought to the end,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We made some really unselfish defensive plays at the end — guys flying around, guys taking charges — so there were a lot of positives.”
Lopez was upset with the call that took him out of the game, saying, “To make that call at that juncture, I don’t agree with it.”
But he added the Nets have made dramatic improvement with defense and toughness.
“We’ve been fantastic defensively,” Lopez said. “We’re really showing a lot of grit and trusting one another, and I think we’ve been consistent on that end. We need to stay that way. Keep believing.”