The Brooklyn Nets headed down to take on the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. They came out with energy and once led by 16 points, but it still came down to the wire. They’ll leave the capital with a 119-118 win in what felt like a playoff type atmosphere at Capital One Arena.
Kevin Durant dealing with an MCL sprain, is set to miss a month or more. KD missed his second game and as a native of the area, the chance to play in front of his home town fans. That leaves James Harden and Kyrie Irving as the Big 2 for the foreseeable future, as long as the game isn’t in Brooklyn. Then Harden will be the Big One.
The final possession was a frenzied scramble. Irving, who finished with a season high 30 points and 7 assists, hoisted a triple looking for a two-for-one. He missed but the Nets got the offensive rebound. James Harden drained some clock before driving where he was blocked by Wizards’ big Montrez Harrell. With 5 seconds left, down just one, Kyle Kuzma, who had just nailed a huge three to cut a four point Nets lead down to one, got another good look at what might have been a game winning triple but it rimmed out. Harrell tracked it and got it to former Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie for one final heave which hit front rim and that was that. Brooklyn escaped.
“They had some good looks, it was scary at the end, but the basketball gods were on our side,” said the seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Keeping the ball out of Bradley Beal’s hands on the final play certainly helps your chances with those gods.
“I think we made just enough plays defensively to get the job done,” said coach Steve Nash after the win. “But I thought the defense, not that it was great, made just enough plays to win the game.”
“It was one of those gritty wins man,” said Aldridge to YES Network’s Michael Grady. Aldridge missed time recently with a sore foot. So how did his foot hold up?
“I felt good, got some work in yesterday, disappointed last game I had some mental break downs early and late so I was trying to be more focused tonight,” said Aldridge via YES.
LMA cracked the 20 point mark for the seventh time this year totaling 27 points, with 6 boards and 2 blocks. If you wanted to make a Big 3 joke with LMA in for KD, you probably wouldn’t be the first to make it after his explosion vs. Bradley Beal and company.
Aldridge carried the team down the stretch offensively. He had their final six points to seal it. Was it Kyrie Irving’s idea to throw him the ball or was Aldridge calling for it down the stretch?
“A little bit of Ky looking for me, a little bit of me asking for it finally, no disrespect, I felt like I had a smaller guy on me so I was just trying to get a look down there….it ended up working out for us.”
So who were these victims that weren’t big enough to slow Aldridge down? He took Kentavious Caldwell-Pope down on the block for a turnaround. On another possession, you can see it was number 33, Kyle Kuzma, on his hip for the turnaround baby bank.
"A little bit of [Irving] looking for me, a little bit of me asking for it finally, no disrespect, I felt like I had a smaller guy on me so I was just trying to get a look down there….it ended up working out for us."
-Always classy LMA calls Kuzma too small, just not by name. https://t.co/VJv6xNwWu7
— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) January 20, 2022
When Harrell next fouled him, reaching for a steal, Aldridge calmly drained two massive free throws with 44 seconds remaining. After the timely stops coach Nash talked about, those freebies ended up being the game winners.
But this has to be some of the classiest and most polite trash talk we’ve heard so far this season. No disrespect, but I had a smaller dude on me, and it was just time to go to work. LMA put a footwork clinic in the low block and finished with his patented soft touch. He’d probably argue this wasn’t trash talk since he didn’t actually say anything to his victims, or even name them at all. But he’s simply stating facts that he had some smaller dudes on him in crunch time. But that’s why we’re qualifying this as some very classy smack. Sometimes saying a dude can’t guard you is all that needs to be said. That’s Larry Bird or Reggie Miller matter-of-fact level stuff.
LMA even gave a healthy ribbing to rookie teammate Day’Ron Sharpe. Sharpe has played well and earned a bigger role moving forwards. But he has tended to struggle with foul trouble and after the big win, Aldridge was asked if he gives advice to the freshman. “I was never as bad as him,” quipped the Texas native.
"I was never as bad as him" 🤣 – LaMarcus Aldridge on Day'Ron Sharpe's rookie foul struggles pic.twitter.com/CjGNMC3ZRV
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) January 20, 2022
LMA is one of the classiest players in the game. And the Nets are thrilled he keeps turning out with big performances. He’s helped saved them in more than a handful of games now. He’s been the team’s most pleasant surprise this season, especially since he wasn’t even expected to play. At least, as much as a dude with over 20,000 career points can “surprise” you when he drains another clutch mid range shot. The Nets face his, and Patty Mills’ former team on Thursday night in San Antonio. Maybe LaAutomatic will have something to say about facing his former coach Gregg Popovich.