Whether you call it “mojo” or “rhythm” or the “it factor,” the Nets clearly lost their promising early-season chemistry during a four-game losing streak. But whatever they lost was found Friday night at Barclays Center, where they were utterly dominant on their way to a 119-84 victory over the Wizards in which they led by as much as 40 points in the fourth quarter.
During the losing streak, the Nets were troubled by slow starts, a problem they fixed during this game as they never trailed from the opening tip. But it was their second-half finish that dazzled as they outscored the Wizards 66-41. It was a great way for the Nets to begin a stretch of seven games in 11 nights, including three back-to-backs, the first concluding Saturday night at Indiana.
Six players scored in double figures for the Nets (12-19), topped by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Caris LeVert had 17 points, DeMarre Carroll, Spencer Dinwiddie and Nik Stauskas each had 15 and Jarrett Allen added 10 as the team shot 50 percent.
Kelly Oubre Jr. (13) and John Wall (10) were the only double-figures scorers for the Wizards (17-15), who shot 36.6 percent and were outrebounded 60-35. Bradley Beal managed only four points on 2-for-15 shooting.
“I thought our mindset from the tipoff was good,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “That first group really decided to get stops and brought energy and defense. After that, everybody got on the train and played well.
“I don’t think any of us were too comfortable after that Sacramento loss [Wednesday]. It was nice to get back on track a little bit tonight. The question is if we can go to Indiana and see if we can compete defensively.”
After their loss to Sacramento, the Nets absorbed harsh criticism from Atkinson. The difference was evident early as the Nets took control on the boards against the physical Wizards to build a 53-43 halftime lead. Hollis-Jefferson was a terror in the first half with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“The first unit came ready to play,” he said. “It comes down to competitive level. You want to be fierce, be someone guys look to, and I do those things pretty well. When the shots fall, my confidence goes through the roof.”
When the third quarter opened, the energy came from a different source. Dinwiddie ran off the Nets’ first 11 points of the quarter, including a trio of three-pointers, as they surged to a 67-47 lead.
“If I could bottle that and use it all the time — I didn’t plan that in the locker room and say, ‘Jarrett, come out and watch me hit every shot’ — I’d do it every time,” Dinwiddie said with a laugh. “In terms of being aggressive and sticking to the game plan, that’s what our group tries to do all the time.”
The Nets learned a valuable lesson entering one of their toughest stretches of the schedule. “We’re not going to outshoot people,” Dinwiddie said. “We have to get stops. That way our pace is better and we get in transition. You saw Rondae being a menace in transition. It’s a product of us getting stops as a unit and him converting and making plays. If we’re constantly taking the ball out of the net, it messes up everything.”