Here are five thoughts from the Nets' loss to the Wizards on Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
1. A disappointing effort with this much on the line
The Nets jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and looked like the superior squad to the below .500 Wizards. Things went back and forth and the Wizards took an eight-point lead into halftime. Then came the third quarter...
Brooklyn was outscored 33-19. Washington beat them to every loose ball, was more physical on the boards and frankly, looked like the hungrier team. This was disappointing from Brooklyn's perspective. With 19 games remaining in the regular season, the Nets are the currently the #6 seed. But, they are only 1.5 games ahead of the Pistons and 3 games ahead of the Hornets. Given their difficult remaining schedule, the Nets can't afford to lose home games to teams behind them in the standings.
Regardless of how it all ends, this has been a successful season for the Nets. Nobody predicted a potential playoff run. Now that they are close, it would be a disappointment if they don't make it. But, as mentioned before in these postgame pieces, there are levels to winning in the NBA. This is the first time this collection of players are playing games that matter this late into the season. There are teams that want to spoil the Nets run and solidify their own playoff seeding. Winning games when you have to is different than winning when no one expects.
Following the game Nets' head coach, Kenny Atkinson talked about his team's effort.
2. Caris LeVert's offense will take time before it's back to pre-injury level
LeVert finished with 0 points in 20 minutes of action on Wednesday night. This was the first time LeVert had been held scoreless in a game since January 2, 2017, his rookie season. The Wizards played pretty solid defense on him, but he missed a few shots at the rim after beating his defender off the dribble.
His timing appears to be off on his rim attacks and his shot. He will have games, like Monday evening against San Antonio, where he looks like the Caris of old. But it will take him some time to be consistent. The challenging part for the Nets is, they will need him to play well over these next 19 games to put a stranglehold on a playoff berth.
The good news is, Caris is playing well defensively and not forcing anything on the offensive end. He and D'Angelo Russell are building their on-court chemistry, hopefully, it will be in time for the squad's first playoff appearance.
Atkinson talked about LeVert's struggles and what can be done.
3. D'Angelo Russell's ceiling as a player
Russell was the lone bright spot on Wednesday night for the Nets. He finished with 28 points, 7 assists and was 9-10 from the free throw line. He was an all-star for the first time this year and is blossoming into the player many thought he could be when the Lakers drafted him #2 overall in 2015. He is averaging career highs across the board in all the major categories in this his fourth season. The Nets have a difficult decision to make at the end of the season, Russell is a restricted free agent and will command a maximum deal, whether the Nets believe it or not. The question is what do Nets management and staff see as Russell's ceiling?
In many ways, he is a polarizing figure. His supporters will point to the fact that he is an all-star and his numbers at this age compare favorably with future Hall of Fame guards, Stephen Curry and James Harden. His detractors will say he was an injury-replacement to the all-star team this year, and while he's putting up career numbers he isn't a plus athlete or a plus defender. His ability to get separation is often predicated on the help of a teammates screen.
The reality is, we don't know what the ceiling is for Russell. But the Nets have to predict the future when making their offer to him this summer. A Harden/Curry ceiling may be overstating his case but maybe Mike Conley or Jrue Holiday are fair comps. Either way, it will be an interesting summer of negotiations.
4. Spencer Dinwiddie's return to the court is likely soon
It looks like Spencer Dinwiddie's return to the court will happen soon. Dinwiddie was on the court prior to Wednesday night's game putting up shots.
*Video courtesy of Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily
Dinwiddie hasn't been cleared for full contact and scrimmaging yet, but it looks like that will be any day now. The return of Dinwiddie after thumb surgery will be a welcome boost for the Nets down the stretch. His shooting and penetration abilities were sorely missed. His return will also allow Atkinson to settle his rotations. Like LeVert though, it will take Dinwiddie some time to get his rhythm back.
5. Nets being sued by Coogi for Biggie jerseys
Coogi, the Australian fashion brand made popular in the United States by the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. is suing the Nets. The lawsuit is over the Nets' city edition jerseys that honor the Brooklyn rapper. The trim on the uniforms is reminiscent of the Coogi patterns.
Coogi asserts the Nets did not receive proper authorization to use their pattern and is now taking legal action against them, as well as the NBA, Nike, New Era, and Russell Brands for merchandise with the pattern.