Wizards get another shot to avenge losses to Nets
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WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards have not been good at exacting revenge this season. Another opportunity comes Saturday when the plucky Brooklyn Nets arrive.
The Wizards (24-18) opened their back-to-back set at home Friday with a 125-119 victory over the Orlando Magic behind 30 points apiece from John Wall and Bradley Beal The victory ended a two-game skid and came against one of those teams with losing records that have bedeviled the Eastern Conference contenders this season.
Washington is an anemic 12-10 against teams below .500 this season. Two of those losses came at Brooklyn last month. In the rematch, the Wizards trailed by as many as 40 points before falling 119-84 on Dec. 23.
Based on their latest performance, scoring should not be an issue. Washington shot 56.8 percent from the field and scored a season-high 74 points in the paint against Orlando. Defensive struggles popped up during the opening three quarters before holding the Magic to 6-for-22 shooting in the final period.
"I looked at the score. I said we really have (98 points) each after the third quarter," Beal exclaimed. "I said whoever plays defense first is going to win. That was a no-brainer."
Wall, who earlier in the game became the youngest player in franchise history to reach 10,000 points, rolled his ankle going for a rebound on the final play of the first half. He left the court with a slight limp, but started the third quarter and scored 19 points in the second half.
"That guy just tapes it up, goes out there and competes," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "It's what makes him a special player. He plays with bumps and bruises that sometimes you got to be the bigger man and sit him down and we've done that in practice quite a bit. But he's a competitor, and we needed every bit of his effort and energy, defensive toughness and offense and shot-making ability tonight."
Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets (16-26) with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in Brooklyn's 110-105 road victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. He went end-to-end for the go-ahead layup with 11 seconds remaining and added two free throws with 9.1 seconds left.
Brooklyn, which only needs four wins to match last season's total, is 4-4 over its last eight games. Dinwiddie imagines this squad has the goods for a surge akin to Miami's 30-11 record over the second half of last season.
"Something like the Miami Heat last year, when they went on that run comes to mind," Dinwiddie said to the New York Post before Friday's game. "Obviously you can't guarantee anything like that, but you'd certainly hope that when healthy and we start to click and gain chemistry that we could do something of that nature, and push not just an improving season but have a really successful season."
Jahlil Okafor scored 17 points in 12 minutes off the bench for the Nets, who had 29 assists and 13 3-pointers.
Seven players averaged at least 10 points in the two wins over Washington, led by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's 18.5 points and 16.5 from Caris Levert.
Levert has not found his scoring touch yet since returning from a groin injury. The wing threat is averaging eight points over his last three games. He scored in double figures nine consecutive games before missing two with the injury.
"Listen, I think it's a challenge for a young player to be out seven days and then come back and find his rhythm," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said via the New York Post. "That's not an excuse for him, he's been playing really good ball lately. But it takes the younger guys a little bit more time to catch their rhythm after being out. He'll get back on track."
Updated January 13, 2018