WASHINGTON — For one night at least, the Nets found reassurance that their season didn’t end when they lost go-to guy Caris LeVert for upward of three months because of a dislocated ankle. Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell dusted off their go-to credentials, and the Nets’ bench packed a powerful punch that helped the team snap a three-game losing streak with a 115-104 win over the Wizards Friday night at Capital One Arena.
The Nets got separation midway through the third period with a 19-5 run that included eight points from Russell plus a cross-court assist to Joe Harris for a three-pointer as they pushed their lead to 15 points. The Wizards climbed back within eight before Dinwiddie had seven points in an 18-7 Nets run spanning the third and fourth quarters to push their lead to a high of 19 at 103-84.
The Nets’ first game without injured LeVert on Wednesday at home was a rough loss to the Heat, but they shook off the emotional hangover.
“You want to confirm that you can still be a good team,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We love Caris, we miss him, but we’ve got some good players in that locker room.”
Looking ahead to the second half of a back-to-back against the tough Clippers Saturday night at Barclays Center, Atkinson added, “Now, it’s to confirm whether we can handle a back-to-back. We haven’t handled it well so far.”
After giving up 30 first-period points, they held the Wizards to 74 the rest of the way and 3-for-17 three-point shooting for the game. The return from illness of Jarrett Allen (16 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks) was critical to providing rim protection.
“That’s a lot of points in the first quarter for anybody,” Allen said of the 30 the Nets yielded. “We just really dug our heels in for the rest of the game and you see that it worked. We had our defensive plan, and we stuck to it.
“It’s good to put the injury behind us. I hate to say it, but this win shows us we can play without [LEVERT]\[LeVert\]. We have enough pieces and the next man just has to step up.”
Dinwiddie led the Nets (7-9) with 25 points and eight assists, Russell added 21 points and six assists, and the Nets had a massive 56-31 advantage in bench points. The Wizards (5-10) got 25 points and 17 rebounds from Dwight Howard, 20 points from Bradley Beal and 18 from Kelly Oubre Jr. After shooting 60.9 percent in the opening period, the Wizards shot 35.9 the rest of the way.
In Dinwiddie’s view, the third quarter explosion was critical. “That’s what changed the game right there,” he said of the Nets’ 19-5 run. “It was our ability to get stops in that condensed period of time, and offensively, we were pretty effective. We opened it up to a 15-point lead in a short window, and we were able to sustain that and keep that gap to the end.”
Atkinson tinkered with the rotation, playing Russell and Dinwiddie together for short periods but primarily keeping them apart as lead scorers for the first and second units.
“I would say it’s too early to speak on what you’re looking for,” Russell said, “but it’s a positive we can definitely build on.”
Dinwiddie said his big night was a function of 8-for-13 shooting.
>“I just hit shots, a couple tough ones,” he said. “If those go in all the time, I’m going to be a really efficient player. If they don’t, I’m assuming the fan base is going to be pretty mad at me with step-back three comments probably.”