Nets focused on banking home wins as Wizards visit
The Brooklyn Nets are being presented with a good opportunity in the words of coach Kenny Atkinson "to make some money" with a string of home games before the schedule significantly increases in difficulty.
So far so good for the sixth-place Nets (32-30), who attempt to get another home win Wednesday night when they host the Washington Wizards.
Brooklyn is 18-14 at home and 15-4 in its last 19 home games since blowing a 23-point lead to Oklahoma City on Dec. 5. The Nets turned in three straight disappointing home losses against Milwaukee on Feb. 4, Chicago on Feb. 8 and Portland last Thursday before rebounding nicely with a 101-85 win over San Antonio on Monday night.
The Nets hit 19 3-pointers and began a stretch of six out of eight games at home by allowing their second-fewest points this season and fewest in a home game since allowing 84 to Washington on Dec. 2017.
"I think it's an advantage playing here," Atkinson said before Monday's game. "I think we have to make some money, especially knowing what comes after that."
Wednesday starts a stretch of seven straight games against opponents with losing records. The Nets are 23-13 against teams with under .500 records and 17-3 against those teams since Dec. 8.
After the friendly stretch comes a seven-game road trip, and 11 of the final 13 games are against opponents with winning records, including six against the top five teams in the Eastern Conference.
On Monday, D'Angelo Russell followed up a 40-point showing in Charlotte with 23 points against the Spurs, giving him 34 games with 20-plus points this season. Joe Harris hit five 3-pointers and is shooting 73.1 percent (19 of 26) from behind the arc in his last five games.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign was Caris Levert showing some of his explosiveness in his sixth game back from missing nearly three months with a right foot injury. LeVert scored Brooklyn's final 12 points of the first half and finished with 15.
"It was huge for us," LeVert said. "Every game is important for us, especially home games are important for us. Especially this homestand we have right now before we have that monster schedule in the middle of March. The more wins we get now, the better."
The Nets will attempt to get their third straight win against an opponent on the fringe of the race in the Eastern Conference.
At 24-36, Washington is 2 1/2 games behind 10th-place Miami and four out of the eighth-place Hornets. The Wizards have been off since a 119-112 home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, their ninth loss in 12 games and fourth in a row.
Washington is on its third losing streak of at least four games, and in this skid, the Wizards are allowing 123 points and 50.8 percent shooting, including 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
In their latest loss, the Wizards fell behind the Pacers by 17 in the first half before making two comeback attempts in the fourth quarter. Washington also allowed 56.6 percent shooting.
Bradley Beal scored 35 points Saturday and is averaging 30.9 points in his last nine games. He also has played at least 41 minutes in the last four games.
"Scoring is not the problem," Beal said. "It's not our problem. It's just defending and getting stops, and controlling stuff we can control."
Washington played with a reconfigured starting lineup on Saturday when newly acquired Bobby Portis started at center in place of Thomas Bryant. Portis scored seven points in 16 minutes, while Bryant finished with 23 and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench.
Brooklyn has won two of the first three meetings. The Nets scored 70 points in the first half of a 125-118 home win on Dec. 14 in the last meeting.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019