Slow starts. Silly turnovers. Wretched defense. All the flaws that have plagued the Nets in their uninspired early stages of the season got fixed — at least for a night.
The Nets got well with a 104-90 rout of Washington before 14,487 at Barclays Center, including Jay-Z seated courtside.
After three straight horrible opening quarters — combined with an inability to guard the ball, or hold onto it — the Nets had been just a miraculous rally in Philadelphia away from being 0-3. But Monday they posted a victory that was both comprehensive and convincing.
Kevin Durant (game-high 25 points) and Patty Mills (21 points) led five Nets in double-figures. But more germane was smothering Washington to 34.7 percent shooting, including 9-of-39 from behind the arc.
And for a change, the Nets didn’t sabotage their own defense with ill-timed turnovers. After having handed Charlotte 29 points on 17 turnovers on Sunday — eight by James Harden alone — they played a much cleaner game. They committed just nine miscues Monday.
“It was an issue last year, too. We’ve just got to take care of the ball,” said Bruce Brown, who had 14 points and had a positive influence on both ends. “Usually teams have more shot attempts for us and we’re still in the game so if we keep the ball in our hands and hit those shots we’ll blow people out.”
That’s what happened. After going an impressive 29-8 as a starter last season, Brown got the nod for the first time this season and immediately rewarded coach Steve Nash. The defensive-minded guard did his usual good work on that end right out of the gate to help avoid another slow start.
After falling behind by 19 in Milwaukee, 14 in Philadelphia and seven against Charlotte, this time Brown had six quick points to help spot the Nets to a 17-12 lead. They never trailed from there.
“They came to me and said I was out of the rotation and said they were trying to figure things out. It’s not anything that I did,” Brown said. “I was just staying ready. I was in this position before last year; I didn’t play like the first 10, 15 games. It’s nothing new. I’ll be ready when my time’s called. Then tomorrow if it goes back to what it was, I’ll be good.”
Clinging to a 17-14 edge after a Daniel Gafford layup, the Nets tightened the defensive screws and blew the game open with an 18-4 run over the next five minutes.
They harassed Washington into 1-of-9 shooting, and Mills’ 3 made it 35-18 with 1:30 left in the first. His nasty step-back 3 with 8.7 second remaining left Aaron Holiday stumbling and Brooklyn up 38-20.
Harden’s driving layup with 7:29 in the half was auspicious in multiple ways, partly because it padded the cushion to 47-22 but more because he repeatedly flashed an ability to get to the basket when needed.
Hamstring issues have essentially kept Harden from playing consistently at full speed since March, and that’s shown in an inability to get to his spots.
After averaging 4.3 attempts at the rim last season, Harden entered Monday’s game managing just two this season. And even when he’s managed to get layup attempts, his percentage had dipped from 59 percent to 33.3 percent.
The end result? A superstar who got 3.1 layups every game last season had averaged one so far.
“I’m gonna get to the basket,” said Harden, who had 14 points, nine assists and six boards. “That’s my game. Get to the basket, finish, create opportunities for my teammates. Nothing changes.”
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