Nets beat Wizards for 8th win in last 9 games – The Denver Post


There are two trains of thought to follow after the Nets’ 112-100 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday night — Brooklyn’s fourth straight win, eighth in its last nine and 15th victory in the 22 games Jacque Vaughn has coached since taking over for Steve Nash seven games into the season.

The first: The Nets reserves might be better than they’ve been given credit.

The Nets were able to keep minutes relatively low for Kevin Durant while sitting Royce O’Neale (personal reasons) a second consecutive game. It’s a plus for the players who ranked Nos. 1 and 2 respectively in total minutes before Vaughn rested both against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

You can credit the reserves for both victories — for Saturday’s unlikely triumph over a surging Pacers team in a game Vaughn rested almost every rotation player; and for supporting Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons in staggered minutes against the Wizards on Monday.

Durant, Irving and Simmons — yes, Simmons — were each electric.

After bringing the Capital One Arena down with a hesitation, crossover, pull-up jumper combination that sent Wizards C Daniel Gafford into a split his first game back in D.C. earlier this season, Durant buried his hometown team with a flurries of scoring in his second homecoming Monday night. He finished with 30 points and only six missed baskets, an 11-of-17 shooting night that also included nine rebounds and six assists.

Irving ran up 24 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Simmons added 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists of his own.

The pair combined for two highlight plays: a close-range, behind-the-back dime from Irving to a cutting Simmons for a layup under the rim; and a one-handed alley-oop Irving initially faked as a layup before floating a short lob to Simmons for the two-handed dunk.

Durant, Irving and Simmons wowed the Wizards’ crowd all night. But key minutes from the reserves helped secure the victory.

TJ Warren, for example, came off the bench to score 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Yuta Watanabe missed five of his six shot attempts but found himself on the floor as part of Brooklyn’s closing lineup. Cam Thomas played key minutes to relieve Irving in mid-game stretches, and Seth Curry played 22 minutes, though he only managed one made shot on seven tries.

Not to mention Patty Mills, whose veteran leadership and playoff experience may be vital for a deep postseason run.

And then there’s the second train of thought: The Nets have looked like an elite team — against middle of the pack competition.

The Nets have not beaten a legitimate championship contender this season. They have lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers and most recently, the Boston Celtics.

Their wins have come against teams that aren’t projected to sniff the second round of the playoffs, let alone the first, with some teams projected to miss the Play-In Tournament.

The chemistry and continuity is developing. That much is undeniable. The Nets, however, aren’t aiming to be a regular season team. They want to be the last team standing, which will inevitably require securing victories against other high-level playoff teams.

Handling business against non-playoff opponents is a must, and it’s an area the Nets have fallen short in past seasons.

Their next real challenge will be protecting home court against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors at Barclays Center on Dec. 21.

They will have two more opportunities to add to the win column before then, with the Raptors and Pistons next up on the docket.



Source link