Despite playing an overtime game Friday night, the Washington Wizards found just enough energy to pull past the Nets late Saturday night in the nation’s capital.
John Wall played like the league’s best point guard, pouring in a game-high 33 points in the 101-94 win. The Nets led for the majority of the game, but Drew Gooden and Wall sparked a 9-0 run to bury Brooklyn. Gooden scored five straight points, including a right-wing three-pointer over Andray Blatche to break a 94-94 tie with just over two minutes left.
After securing their third straight win against the Miami Heat Wednesday night, the Nets floated on air into Washington. The layoff did not hurt the Wizards as they moved to 3-0 against the Nets this season.
The Nets dropped to 31-2 this season when leading after the third quarter. In both losses, the Nets fell to the Wizards.
With all the jokes about the Eastern Conference notwithstanding, the Nets remain in a fairly muddled group. The top six teams all boast the kind of talent necessary to advance. Match-ups might very well dictate an early-round surprise.
Despite success against the Heat, the Nets have been swept by the Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, and Detroit Pistons. The Bulls edged the Nets 2-1 while splitting the season series, 2-2, with the Toronto Raptors.
With the Heat and Pacers displaying weaknesses, the Nets could very well pull off an upset against one of the Eastern powers. Conversely, any four or five match-up could find the Nets on the wrong side of an upset.
Health will play the largest factor. Against the Wizards, the Nets received contributions from everyone except Kevin Garnett, who continues to nurse a back spasm. Andrei Kirilenko returned from a sprained ankle, although he played modestly in the loss.
The Nets’ turnaround coincided with Deron Williams’ improved play. Following ankle treatment during the All-Star break, Williams has experienced a resurgence. His numbers have not matched his max contract, but the Nets’ record went through the roof with him healthy.
The Nets will face another above-average team Monday night in the Phoenix Suns. The Suns venture to Barclays Center with a 37-28 record, but they currently at ninth in the Western Conference. Like the Wizards, the Suns will enter the game off a back-to-back.