Dinwiddie, Russell help Nets get first win without LeVert
WASHINGTON (AP) — Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson thinks the Nets can succeed without Caris LeVert.
They took the first step toward proving it Friday night.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored a season-best 25 points, D’Angelo Russell had 23 and the Nets beat the Washington Wizards 115-104 for their first win since LeVert’s gruesome foot injury.
“It feels good because of those circumstances,” Atkinson said. “You want to confirm that we can still be a good team. We love Caris, we miss him, but we’ve got some good players in that locker room.”
LeVert is Brooklyn’s leading scorer but suffered what was originally feared to be a season-ending injury Monday. Doctors found no fractures, though, and he is expected to avoid surgery and return later this season from a dislocated foot.
Jarrett Allen had 16 points and 12 rebounds in his return after missing two games due to illness. The Nets had lost five straight in Washington and ended a three-game slide overall.
“Having his rim protection just changes the equation,” Atkinson said of Allen. “I thought we were excellent defending the rim tonight.”
Dwight Howard scored a season-high 25 points for the Wizards before fouling out in the fourth quarter. He also grabbed 17 rebounds as Washington failed to win its fourth straight.
Bradley Beal scored 20 points and John Wall had 16. But the All-Star backcourt duo combined to shoot only 14 for 38 on a night Washington went 3 of 17 from beyond the arc, posting season lows in makes and attempts.
For the Nets and their NBA-leading 3-point defense, it was all according to plan.
“We wanted to make a point of being aggressive and stick with their stars,” Dinwiddie said. “Obviously, Wall and Beal are phenomenal players, and hopefully, if you can contain them, you set yourself up to beat the team.”
Neither team led by more than six in the first half before Brooklyn used a 19-5 run to build a 79-64 advantage in the third. Russell scored eight of those points — five from the foul line — and found Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe for 3-pointers.
Washington briefly got back within eight, but the Nets reclaimed a double-digit lead and kept it throughout the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t make shots,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We turned the ball over and gave them a lot of opportunities. But defensively, we could not stay in front of the basketball.”
CARIS COMING WITH?
Atkinson is hopeful LeVert will be able to join the team on the road in the near future.
“Not right now, but I’d say soon,” Atkinson said of LeVert’s ability to travel. “He’s kind of walking around.”
Beal said part of his team’s shooting struggles Friday came from overthinking whether to take the mid-range jumpers Brooklyn was inviting.
“I think the biggest thing with us is we just got to be confident in everything we do,” Beal said. “No matter what shot it is, man. A 3, a layup, a floater. Just be confident in everything we do. I think sometimes we second-guess a lot, and it gets us in trouble.”
Nets: Russell scored 13 of Brooklyn’s first 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting. ... F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sat out with a sprained right ankle.
Wizards: Had held opponents under 30 points for seven consecutive quarters before Brooklyn scored 30 in the second. ... Wall picked up his fourth technical foul of the season with 6:02 left in the third quarter, and his first flagrant with 59 second remaining in the game.
Nets: Host the LA Clippers on Saturday night.
Wizards: Play the fourth game of a five in a row at home Sunday night vs. Portland.