Wizards try not to let guard down versus Nets

NEW YORK -- A loud home crowd and a nationally televised contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday became a game the whole league is talking about for the Washington Wizards.

Although the Wizards fell short in a 140-135 overtime thriller to Cleveland, it left them buzzing with excitement about how the rest of the season might unfold.

After a day off, the Wizards face the challenge of keeping the same focus and intensity Wednesday night when they visit the Brooklyn Nets, who are the league's worst team.

The Wizards (30-21) are 23-8 since Dec. 6 and the only time they lost consecutive games was Jan 2-3 at Houston and Dallas. Monday's instant classic snapped two streaks for the Wizards, a 17-game home winning streak and an overall seven-game run.

"It was an instant classic, a great basketball game by two really good teams," Washington coach Scott Brooks said.

The Wizards shot 50 percent for the 18th time this season Monday and led for 26:09. Monday's game featured 15 leads and 16 ties as Washington held a three-point advantage with three seconds left before LeBron James hit the tying 3-pointer.

"This is a game we should have won," Wizards point guard John Wall said. "LeBron made a heck of a shot that he'd probably make one out of a million times."

The Wizards won the last five meetings with the Nets and a win Wednesday would give them their longest winning streak in the series since going 7-0 from April 8, 1987 to April 3, 1988.

Washington coasted to a 118-95 home victory Dec. 30 when nobody played more than 32 minutes. Playing their main players for that long would be ideal since against Cleveland, John Wall totaled 22 points and 12 assists in 44:28, Bradley Beal scored 41 in 45:20 and Otto Porter Jr. added 25 in 45:20.

The last time Washington visited Brooklyn, it needed more minutes from its key players since it trailed by 16 in the first half in an eventual 118-113 triumph Dec. 5. Wall scored 25 points and added 13 assists while playing 35:46.

At the time of Washington's last trip to Brooklyn, it was still figuring things out and off to a 7-12 start. After losing at home the next night to Orlando, Washington overcame its early struggles.

The Wizards are shooting 49.2 percent, averaging 109.7 points and 24.9 assists, and making 37.4 percent of their 3-pointers in the last 31 games.

Wall is averaging 22.3 points and 10.8 assists in that span, Beal is averaging 22.6 points on 48.5 percent shooting and Porter is averaging 14.4 points and shooting 53 percent.

The Nets are on a 10-game losing streak since Jan. 20 and their next loss will match a season high. Brooklyn lost 11 straight from Dec. 28 to Jan. 17 before scoring 143 in New Orleans.

During this streak, the offense has not kept up with some of the earlier numbers. The Nets are averaging 100.7 points, shooting 43.4 percent, 33.9 from 3 and averaging 16.8 turnovers since their last win.

Brooklyn's latest loss was a 111-107 setback at Charlotte Tuesday night. The Nets shot 6 of 22 in the first quarter, trailed by as many as 17 and scored 70 points in the second half during their fifth straight single-digit defeat.

"We climbed back and I was proud of the guys," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "This group has a lot of fight in them. I'm proud of that. I think it's a group that's still clawing to get a win. We just have to find that breakthrough."

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Nets with 22 points and Brook Lopez added 20. The duo also combined for seven of Brooklyn's 18 turnovers and it marked the 41st time the Nets committed at least 15 giveaways.

"Turnovers are killing us because it allows them to have too many easy layups," Bogdanovic said. "Everybody talks about defense, but I think also we have to start with the offense to limit turnovers."

Beside the 10-game skid, the Nets also are on a 12-game home losing streak since Randy Foye's buzzer beater against Charlotte on Dec. 26.