The Nets were sure they had a road win. What they got instead was one of their worst collapses in years, served with a side order of humble pie.
From blowing a huge lead to missing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s last-second go-ahead layup, Brooklyn suffered a 149-146 implosion in Washington.
The Nets (13-9) took it on the chin against the worst team in the East, losing a four-game winning streak and multiple leads along the way. They blew an 18-point cushion in the first half and a five-point edge with 12.3 seconds to play in a defeat that defies belief.
“It didn’t mean enough to get stops. Maybe we thought we had it in the bag, but too many times we let them waltz down the lane and get layups,” said coach Steve Nash. “We just let our foot off the gas, thought we were going to win, and that’s a dangerous game to play.”
It’s a game that cost the Nets dearly.
“This was a tough one,” said Kevin Durant, who saw his 37 points wasted. “We gave up 149 points, 108 shots. That’s not looking great for us defensively, giving up that many points.”
Even after that got complacent and squandered an 18-point cushion, Kyrie Irving (26 points, eight assists) had put the Nets back ahead 146-141 with 12.3 seconds left.
But the Nets yielded a game-changing six points in 3.8 seconds.
First Bradley Beal — who had 22 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter — hit a 30-footer. Then, after Joe Harris committed a turnover on an inbounds — Durant cutting one way and Harris throwing the other — Russell Westbrook (41 points) drilled a 3 with 4.3 seconds left to give the Wizards their first lead of the second half.
The Nets never recovered.
“It was just a dumb mistake on my part,” Harris said. “I was trying to get the ball out quick and get it to Kevin, and it was one of those things where he was cutting to the rim and I was throwing the ball where I thought he was going to be going.
“I had a timeout. I should’ve been more cognizant of it and just taken care of the ball. Definitely it was a big mistake on my part, especially down the stretch like that. Those are timely possessions. Even though the defensive effort wasn’t great, we still should’ve won this game and a lot of it comes down to the timely possessions at the end.”
Even after trying their best to hand this game to Washington — they’d led by as much as 31-13 on an Irving turnaround with 2:56 left in the first half — the Nets still had a golden opportunity to win. And they wasted that as well.
With Durant waiting on the block for the fateful, final play, the Wizards used Beal and flooded him. Irving adjusted and threaded a perfect no-look pass to Luwawu-Cabarrot for what should’ve been a go-ahead bucket, but his layup rolled around and out with 0.7 left.
Beal iced the heartbreaker at the line.
“We got a wide-open layup to lead the game because everybody was so focused on me there. Coach drew up a good play and he was able to get somebody creeping for a layup, we just didn’t finish it,” said Durant. “The ball was supposed to come to me, but … we were able to get something good, we just didn’t finish.”
That was the end of the game, but not the whole story.
“We had that game. It should’ve been ours. So we just look at ourselves in the mirror and see what we can correct as individuals and as a group, especially on effort,” Irving said. “I couldn’t guard a stick today. Those guys were just going right around me, and I was getting frustrated a little bit.”
Against a 4-12 Wizards team that’d lost four straight — seven of eight since beating the Nets on Jan. 3 at Barclays Center — the Nets defense got shredded. Again.
The Nets gave up 20 more shots, allowed 17 more points off turnovers, and allowed 48 points in the fourth quarter.
Somehow the Nets found a way to shoot 56.8 percent and still suffer a devastating defeat.
“It was an unfortunate moment. Joe threw the ball in and Kevin was cutting a different direction. So it was just an error, and it happens,” Nash said. “But when you give up 149 points, that’s one error in 50 defensive lapses. We were not good enough defensively.”