Coach Steve Nash often says defense is not the Nets’ "forte," and they reinforced his assessment again during a game in which they essentially traded baskets with the Wizards for 48 minutes Sunday night in Washington.
The NBA’s highest-scoring team paid for its inattention to guarding in a stunning 149-146 loss to the Wizards, who have the worst record in the NBA.
Washington (4-12) scored 121 points in the final three quarters, 48 in the fourth period, 30 in the final 5:28 and eight in the final 8.1 seconds.
The Nets had a nine-point lead early in the fourth period, but the Wizards came back to tie it at 141 on Russell Westbrook’s layup with 41.1 seconds remaining.
The Nets regained what appeared to be a secure 146-141 lead with 12.3 seconds left, but Bradley Beal hit a deep straightaway three-pointer at the 8.1 mark and the Nets’ Joe Harris threw away the inbounds pass, setting up the go-ahead three-pointer by Westbrook with 4.3 seconds left. Garrison Mathews stole Harris' pass and, just before stepping out of bounds at the sideline, got it to Westbrook at the left wing.
"It was just a dumb mistake on my part," Harris said.
"I was trying to get the ball out quick and get it to Kevin [Durant], and it was one of those things where he was cutting to the rim and I was kind of throwing the ball where I thought he was going to be going. I had a timeout. I should have been more cognizant of it and just taken care of the ball.
"Definitely, it was a big mistake on my part. Even though the defensive effort wasn’t great, we still should have won this game, and a lot of it comes down to the timely possessions at the end."
The Nets had a chance to go ahead when Kyrie Irving threw a sharp bounce pass to a cutting Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot on an inbounds play, but his point-blank lefthanded layup attempt spun around the rim and fell off.
Irving wanted to inbound the ball to Durant, but he was double-teamed.
"I was trying to use my eyes and my ball fake to get the defense to bite, and as soon as I saw them going to KD, I threw it straight to TLC," Irving said. "He had a great chance to make the lefthanded layup, but unfortunately, it didn’t go down. It’s not TLC’s fault."
Beal then hit two free throws with seven-tenths of a second left.
Durant topped the Nets (13-9) with 37 points. Harris scored 30, Irving had 26 and Jeff Green added 23 off the bench. The Nets' total points were one short of the franchise record for a regulation game that they tied Friday in Oklahoma City.
The Nets shot 56.8% from the field and 52.8% from three-point range but committed 17 turnovers leading to 25 Wizards points. Washington outscored the Nets 72-34 in the paint.
Westbrook had 41 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and Beal added 37 points. Beal scored 22 points and Westbrook 15 in the fourth quarter.
The Nets played without James Harden, who had a left thigh contusion. There also was an element of load management because he has averaged 39.9 minutes per game since joining the Nets.
"I don’t think it’s too severe," coach Steve Nash said of Harden’s injury. "I think it’s pretty manageable."
The Nets took a 31-13 lead, but the Wizards went ahead 57-56 on a three-point play by Beal with 3:40 left in the opening half. The third period was a shootout that ended with the Nets leading 108-101, but Washington responded with that 48-point fourth quarter.
I don’t know if we’ll get many wins if we allow 48 points in any quarter," Irving said.
"We had that game. It should’ve been ours, so we look at ourselves in the mirror and see what we can correct — especially on effort. I couldn’t guard a stick. Those guys were going right around me. But that’s what good scorers do."