Since the James Harden trade, the Brooklyn Nets have had the best offense in the NBA — 122.6 points per 100 possessions — which shouldn’t be a shock when you pair that MVP with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
They also have the worst defense in the NBA in that stretch — 119.9 defensive rating — and it’s costing them games.
Brooklyn was up five, 146-141, after two Irving free throws. But then Bradley Beal races the ball up court and hits a deep three; Joe Harris tried to inbound the ball to Durant just as KD was cutting to get more open, the Wizards got the ball, and Westbrook drained the game-winning three.
— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) February 1, 2021
For struggling Washington, that is the kind of win that can springboard a season turnaround (although the Wizards need to clean up their own defensive issues to start picking up consistent wins).
For Brooklyn, that is a punch to the gut loss.
Washington played with a sense of urgency — or desperation if you prefer — that Brooklyn has lacked for much of this season. Part of that is the Wizards needed the win, but an elite contender has to match that.
Brooklyn has too much talent not to make a deep playoff run, but how deep and how big a threat to win the title they will be has a lot to do with how much they evolve — and how much their defense improves — over the remaining three-quarters of the season.