WASHINGTON — The NBA stat of the year might have been that the 15-win Nets had more wins in March (six) going into Friday night’s games than the defending NBA champion Cavaliers (five). But after taking an early nine-point lead against the Wizards at Verizon Center, the Nets reverted to their miserable January-February form in a 129-108 blowout loss.
Lately, it seemed as if the work the Nets’ staff poured into development was paying off after a 5-5 stretch. But coach Kenny Atkinson said the experimentation might have gone too far with his decision to keep the Nets home after a win over Phoenix on Thursday night before making the short hop to Washington on Friday morning for the second game of a back-to-back.
An NBA rules adjustment this year permits game-day travel on short trips. Asked if it impacted the Nets, Atkinson said, “I hope not. We’re trying different things to see what works for us. We definitely will look at that. How did the guys react to it? How did the coaches react to it?
“Obviously, the result isn’t very good. If we’re just going on the result, it wasn’t a smart move by the coach. But I don’t regret it. It’s part of trying to find out how to be more efficient in what we do.”
Coming off the Nets’ first two-game winning streak, their starters jumped to a 13-4 lead, but their offensive execution went south and a bench unit that scored a season-high 81 points against Phoenix only made it worse. The Nets had a 19-16 lead when the full second unit got on the floor, but they scored only three points in the final 3:29 of the period and the Wizards took a 31-22 lead.
In the second quarter, Washington’s lead grew to 28 points. The Nets cut it to 14 a few times, but the Wizards pushed it to a high of 29 late.
Justin Hamilton led the Nets (15-57) with 20 points off the bench, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 19 and Jeremy Lin had 14. Brook Lopez was held to six points and the Nets were 3-for-15 from three-point range.
The Wizards (44-28) were led by their backcourt of John Wall (22 points, nine assists) and Bradley Beal (19 points). They got a great performance by their bench, including 18 points and nine assists from former Knick Brandon Jennings, 17 points and seven rebounds from former Net Bojan Bogdanovic and 16 points and seven rebounds from Ian Mahinmi.
Lin shrugged when asked about traveling on a game day, saying, “That’s one of those things where you’ve got to fight through it. We don’t want to make excuses. Even if it’s three games in four nights, you’ve just got to find a way.”