NEW YORK — The chants started in the first quarter and drifted down from the Barclays Center rafters: M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!
“He’s an MVP-level player for a reason,” Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “He gets to a spot and raises up, if you don’t get the ball out of his hands, it’s pretty much make or miss.”
Outside of Durant, the Wizards (11-11) kept nearly every other member of the Nets in relative check. Kyrie Irving was quiet for three quarters before heating up in the fourth and finishing with 27 points and five assists.
“It’s so hard to stop either one of those guys when they get going,” Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis said. “Tonight was KD’s night. I mean, he’s the best player in the world. He’s very hard to stop, especially when he’s feeling good.”
Washington was fueled by Porzingis (27 points, a career-high 19 rebounds), Bradley Beal (25 points) and Kyle Kuzma (25 points) — but got little in the way of production from anyone else.
Porzingis traced his recent run of strong play to health.
“My body’s feeling well, that’s one thing,” he said. “And mentally, I’m in a good place and playing my game, being aggressive. Trying to figure out ways how I can be better for my teammates. What can I do? It’s a decent game today, but wish we came out with a win. It would have been a different feeling right now. But yeah, myself individually, I like the way, I’m playing and the way I’m moving, and things are clicking.”
The Wizards struggled at the free throw line, where they were just 23 for 34.
“They’re free points, and for the great shooters we have in this locker room, missing free throws gets under your skin quick,” said forward Corey Kispert, who had eight points and went 1 for 2 from the line. “So just got to get more reps up and focus on the line, and that’s myself included.”
Unseld called them “missed opportunities.”
“No one’s intentionally trying to miss free throws,” the coach said. “Just have to have that level of concentration that you have an opportunity to get some free points.”
The Wizards also struggled from deep. They missed 18 of 24 from beyond the arc while Brooklyn (12-11) shot 42.3 percent from three-point range.
The Wizards have dropped four of five.
Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss:
The Nets announced before the game that Ben Simmons, the former No. 1 overall pick acquired last season from Philadelphia, would miss at least three games with an upper calf strain.
“He was grabbing his knee during the [second quarter of Monday’s] game and said he needed to come out,” Coach Jacque Vaughn said before the game. “Ended up being the back of the knee, so it’s the upper part of the calf, which ended up being the diagnosis after we took some imagery.”
The three-time all-star will be reevaluated after the three games.
Wizards guard Delon Wright is traveling with the team after his injury status improved last week. He continues to deal with a strained hamstring and has not yet returned to contact during workouts but is doing individual on-court activities.
“You have the opportunity to continue with his revamp,” Unseld said. “He still gets his treatments. It’s also good for him to kind of be around as we’ve added different things, different layers to our coverages, some schematic tweaks. …
“It's good to have another vet in the fold. It helps the group. Just talking to him, seeing what he sees. Can he add anything to what we're doing, how we're doing it? But he's part of us and has been part of us. So just to have him around is good.”
Unseld was an assistant for three seasons on Vaughn’s Orlando staff when he was the Magic coach from 2012 to 2015. Unseld said he was working at a summer camp as an assistant with the Warriors when Vaughn reached out.
“He's an unbelievable human being,” Vaughn said. “He's done a great job with that team. He is a guy that has done just about everything in this league. Started out as a scout, worked his way up.
“Tremendous work ethic, great family. Love that he has an opportunity to coach the Wizards. It brings a smile to my face to see him on the sideline.”