Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas wore Nets uniforms for the first time Tuesday night at Barclays Center, but the experience was exactly what they were used to in Philadelphia. Neither played.
At least, they got to watch an exciting game that wasn’t decided until the final minute. Allen Crabbe hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 43.8 seconds left and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fought for a key offensive rebound that led to a foul shot by Spencer Dinwiddie before the Wizards were called for a five-second violation with 8.8 seconds left, effectively handing a 103-98 victory to the Nets after Caris LeVert converted a pair of free throws.
The win was the third in four games for the Nets (11-15), who had seven players score in double figures. Hollis-Jefferson led the way with 16 points and 12 rebounds, LeVert had 16 points and eight assists, DeMarre Carroll totaled 15 points and eight rebounds, and Dinwiddie had 11 points, six rebounds and 12 assists.
Bradley Beal scored 28 points for the Wizards (14-13), who played without John Wall (left knee soreness). But Beal made only 11 of 33 shots, going 0-for-7 from three-point range.
“It was our defense,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We held them to 20 in the fourth quarter. We really locked in on Beal. We just wanted to bring his percentage down and play the numbers.”
Crabbe, who scored 13 points, was only 2 of 14 from three-point range before Atkinson set up the play in a timeout for him to hit the go-ahead three. Asked how he maintained the confidence to hit that one, Crabbe said, “It was that ‘I don’t care attitude.’ If I miss, I miss. That was my problem in the past. Every time I missed, I got tentative.”
The Wizards had been switching on defense but Crabbe said the Nets sold the play to free him on a back screen. Coming out of a timeout that followed, injured D’Angelo Russell was joking with Crabbe before play resumed.
“He was one of the main ones telling me to keep shooting the ball, just take my time and make it,” Crabbe said. “He kept it positive, and I made the big one, I made the one that counted.”
Atkinson made it clear before the game that newcomers Okafor and Stauskas were unlikely participants in their first game with the Nets. “This isn’t CYO where you show up at 4 o’clock and you haven’t met your teammates and just throw them out there,” Atkinson said. “We have a ton of plays, a defensive system. We want to put both those guys in a position to succeed, a position to help the team.”
Atkinson said the idea is to integrate them as quickly as possible. They practiced on Monday and will practice again on Wednesday before the Nets play back-to-back games against the Knicks and Raptors.
“I do think there’s a plan in place,” Atkinson said. “We want to put them in a good position to succeed and help our team and make sure when I call a play they know what the heck we’re doing and when I call defensive adjustments they know what they’re doing. There’s a natural process of them building. So, it’s going to take a little bit.”
It’s a major question how the 6-11, low-post scoring Okafor will fit in an offense that spreads the floor. “We do play through the post,” Atkinson said. “Maybe you’ll see us playing through there a little more with him.”
Atkinson assured Okafor and Stauskas will get their opportunity soon enough. “It’s got to be evident to their teammates and their coaches that they deserve the minutes,” Atkinson said. “As they play better, they’ll get more minutes.”