The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wizards not only lose but help dysfunctional Nets look functional

Brooklyn 128, Washington 86

The Wizards suffered their worst loss of the young season Friday against Brooklyn. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Kevin Durant stepped once with his left leg, quick and spindly as a spider’s, then again, and just like that Daniel Gafford was on the floor. His teammates on the bench and the crowd at Capital One Arena rose in amazement when Durant crossed up the Wizards’ 6-foot-10 center — twice — and reminded the basketball world that, for all their ugly baggage, the Brooklyn Nets need only two things to put on a beautiful show: their focus and an agreeable opponent.

The Washington Wizards acquiesced quite a bit Friday in a 128-86 loss to the messiest team in the NBA. They allowed Brooklyn to shoot 55.6 percent from the field with a freewheeling offense that was without both Kyrie Irving (suspension) and Ben Simmons (knee).

They were shooting even better, 57 percent, early in the fourth quarter when Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. pulled most of his starters.

Washington did the unthinkable Friday. It made Brooklyn look functional.

“I’m not pointing blame at players; across the board we all got our butts kicked tonight. Bottom line,” Unseld said. “We all have to own that — it’s embarrassing. But it started with our approach — our approach was lackluster, we thought we could ease our way into a game where they didn’t have a complete complement, roster-wise, and it turned around and bit us in the butt.”

The Nets arrived at Capital One Arena toting a mountain of off-court stressors, primarily Irving’s team-imposed suspension. The 30-year-old was suspended Thursday for at least five games without pay after repeatedly refusing to apologize for a social media post about an antisemitic film and book; he issued an apology hours after the Nets announced his punishment. The point guard stood to lose at least $1.25 million for missing five games, and late Friday, Nike said it was suspending its relationship with Irving.

The Nets, whose two previous wins this season had come against the rebuilding Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors, looked just fine without him and Steve Nash, who was fired as coach this week. Interim coach Jacque Vaughn directed from the sideline as the team started sixth-year point guard Edmond Sumner in Irving’s place.

Durant shredded Wizards defenders for 28 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. Nic Claxton added 18 points and nine rebounds. George Washington alum Yuta Watanabe had 14 points off the bench.

Washington (4-5) seemed to just step aside while Durant cooked.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 20 points while Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Kyle Kuzma had 19 points. But they were the only scorers in double figures, and they couldn’t withstand the bulldozing in which the Nets scored 60 points in the paint.

“It was a letdown. It was definitely a step back on the defensive end,” Beal said. “We showed no resistance, no physicality, really no pride on that end of the floor. That’s what it came down to. We didn’t have it, at all, tonight.”

Brooklyn didn’t get to the free throw line all that much — it made 12 of 12 compared with Washington’s 18 of 22 — and didn’t hold a significant rebounding edge until garbage time in the fourth quarter. The Nets hammered the Wizards again and again, opening easy paths to the paint and punctuating with critical three-pointers.

They made 14 of 28 from beyond the arc compared with the Wizards’ 8 of 34.

Here’s what else to know from the Wizards’ loss:

Avdija responds to Irving situation

Third-year Wizards forward Deni Avdija answered questions about Irving’s social media posts and suspension for just over five minutes after Friday’s game. The 21-year-old from Israel is the only active Jewish player in the NBA.

“I’ve heard. I’ve seen. Listen, at the end of the day, I think he’s a role model, he’s a great player. I think he made a mistake, but you need to understand that he gives [examples] to people,” Avdija said. “People look up to him, you know what I’m saying? You can think whatever you want. You can do whatever you want. [But] I don’t think it’s right to go out and publish it and let little kids that follow you see it and generations that come after to think like that, because it’s not true. And I don’t think it’s fair. Hopefully he’s sorry for what he said.”

Kuzma clarifies tweet

Kuzma posted what he said was an ill-timed tweet Friday that many assumed to be about Irving. “Can’t even tell the truth no more,” he wrote around 30 minutes after Durant and Nets General Manager Sean Marks spoke about Irving at Brooklyn’s shoot-around.

“It’s unfortunate — my tweet got completely taken out of context,” Kuzma said. “Probably a product of wrong place, wrong time. For sure. Obviously anyone that knows me knows my character, I’m all about peace and love. I don’t condone any discrimination or hate of any race or religion, [politics], whatever you want to call it.”

Durant floors Gafford

The highlight of the game came at the end of the first quarter, when Durant crossed up Gafford. The first time Durant caught the center flat-footed, he just tripped him up a bit, but the second time Gafford lunged into a split stance and slid to the floor.

It’s difficult to make up for a moment like that, but Gafford regained some dignity on the other end with a layup.

Kispert returns

Second-year guard Corey Kispert played in his first game of the year after recovering from a left ankle sprain. Kispert has been practicing with the team’s G League affiliate but had not participated in a full Wizards practice before his debut. He had two points in 17 minutes as he worked his way back into rhythm.

With backup point guard Delon Wright out indefinitely with a hamstring strain, Unseld was pleased to have Kispert back to help smooth out his rotations.

Davis could get G League assignment

Rookie Johnny Davis scored two points in eight minutes, the bulk of which came at the end of the game. Unseld said Davis could be assigned to the Wizards’ G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, for its season opener Saturday to get more playing time.