The Brooklyn Nets are rolling, and Kyrie Irving is only talking about their commitment to playing hard and stacking up wins.
That’s hardly a coincidence.
Kevin Durant scored 30 points, Irving had 24 and the well-rested Nets methodically pulled away for a 112-100 win against the overmatched Washington Wizards on Monday night.
The Nets were the talk of the NBA for their early-season turmoil that included the ouster of coach Steve Nash and Irving‘s eight-game suspension for tweeting a link to an antisemitic documentary, an action for which he ultimately apologized.
Now, Brooklyn is coming together under new coach Jacque Vaughn and has won eight of nine.
“Man, let’s just go win ballgames. That’s it, that’s really what the attitude is,” Irving said. “We know the talent we have. This is our group. No more excuses, no more distractions.”
The Nets, who won at Indiana on Saturday night with their top seven scorers sitting out, matched a season best with their fourth straight victory. All those players were back in action Monday except Royce O’Neale, who missed a second consecutive game for personal reasons.
“I thought you saw our guys look extremely fresh,” Vaughn said. “We had a lot of juice to start the game, and plenty to finish.”
Will Barton scored a season-high 22 points for the Wizards, who lost their season-worst seventh game in a row and now face a six-game trip out West that could bury them in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington was missing leading scorer Bradley Beal for the fourth straight game because of a right hamstring strain.
“Hopefully we start getting some guys back. Hopefully, that’s the plan,” said Kyle Kuzma, who scored 20 points. “Tough stretch, we’ve lost a lot in a row, now we’re going to the West playing all playoff teams. So if we don’t figure it out, it’s going to be a long trip.”
Kristaps Porzingis scored 20 points in 24 minutes for the Wizards, but departed with 3:37 left in the third quarter with back tightness and didn’t return. Porzingis rode an exercise bike with a pad strapped to his back while on the bench in the first half. Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said the 7-foot-3 center is day to day.
“It’s loosening up a little bit, so the more time I get, the better I’ll be,” Porzingis said.
Brooklyn never led by more than nine in the first half but began pulling away midway through the third quarter, going ahead 88-71 on a jumper by T.J. Warren, who finished with 12 points. The Wizards never got closer than eight in the fourth quarter.
“We play hard for each other. We’re just not good enough to win these games,” Porzingis said. “We’re in a tough moment right now.”
Durant, who grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, signed autographs after warmups and was introduced to cheers. He went 11 of 17 from the floor and had nine rebounds and six assists.
Durant said he was inspired by his short-handed team’s effort at Indiana and his goal was not to underestimate the depleted Wizards.
“We talked about this being a trap game,” he said. “If we’d have played too relaxed, with no sense of urgency, we definitely would have lost this game.”
Irving — who missed the Nets’ earlier visit to Washington because of his suspension — was booed pregame but had the crowd gasping in appreciation in the second quarter. He keyed an 11-0 run with a four-point play, a three-point play and a drive where he hung in the air, faked with his right hand and switched to his left to finish, prompting a Washington timeout and Durant summoning Irving to the bench for high-fives.
FAILURE TO BLOOM
The Wizards celebrated Japanese heritage and wore pink, cherry blossom-inspired uniforms, but two players from Japan had little to no impact. Washington forward Rui Hachimura missed his 12th straight game with an ankle injury. Brooklyn’s Yuta Watanabe finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Nets: C Nic Claxton returned after missing two games with right hamstring tightness. … G/F Ben Simmons had missed five of the past six games because of a left calf strain. He finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Wizards: Beal was cleared Monday to resume basketball activities but Unseld did not say when he would be ready to play. Beal missed his 10th game of the season because of injury or illness. He signed a five-year, $251 million supermax extension before the season. … PG Monte Morris (groin) was sidelined and backup Jordan Goodwin made his third start of the season.
Nets: At Toronto on Friday night.
Wizards: At Denver on Wednesday night. Washington plays 10 of its next 12 games away from home.
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