Competitive throughout and leading early in the fourth quarter, the Washington Wizards fell behind for good following an Andray Blatche-keyed 13-3 run and lost 98-88 to the Nets in the first game played at the new Barclays Center.
Also new, Emeka Okafor making his Wizards debut. Not new, Bradley Beal showing he belongs and flashing that textbook jumper even though it faltered in the fourth. New, Andray Blatche's slimmer frame. Not new, the 6-foot-11 forward scoring in bunches, though he'd never done so for a team besides the Wizards, until now...
Stats: Martell Webster paced five double-digit scorers with 18 points, sinking all 10 of his free throw opportunities. Beal sank his first three shots and finished with 13 points, followed by 12 each from Okafor and Jordan Crawford. Trevor Ariza added 10 points.
The Wizards dramatically curbed their turnovers, committing only eight. Three came via Shelvin Mack, who went without a turnover during the first three games. Offensively Washington shot 39 percent (32-of-82) from the field while the Nets sank half of their attempts (39-of-78). Center Brook Lopez led the Nets with 18 points while Blatche scored 16.
Beal: Squaring off against the Nets newly acquired All-Star guard Joe Johnson (14 points), the Florida rookie more than held his own on both ends of the court, especially in the first half. Beal expertly came off screens set by Okafor and finished plays with textbook jumpers, showing he is indeed well versed in the art of catch-and-shoot. Not only did he run around Johnson when the Wizards had the ball, Bell hung tough defending the taller guard and noted scorer. As the game progressed, Beal's shot began misfiring - wayward on seven of his final nine attempts - but he played without committing a turnover and grabbed four rebounds.
Crawford: Nobody is going to describe the Wizards other rising third-year guard's game as textbook, but Crawford flashed a much better off-the-ball game than in previous seasons, running off picks and executing offensively. He also made some nice passes, including a touch feed to a streaking Trevor Ariza for a dunk, and committed only one turnover. After the fast break dish, Phil Chenier said on-air, "I tell you what, it's fun watching Jordan Crawford play, just play basketball." Simple point, but one understood by anyone who's watched the volume shooter's wild play the past two seasons.
Blatche: Come on, we knew this was coming. Looking svelte (one on-site estimate had him down 20 pounds since we last saw him) after his Wizards era ended with a string of DNP-conditioning, Blatche ran the court and muscled his way past Washington's big men, knocking down 8-of-13 shots with eight rebounds in 23 minutes. The can guy score, he had motivation facing his old team and for a good chunk of the game the Wizards had Shavlik Randolph and Earl Barron on the court. Perfect storm, Blatche took advantage of it, scoring 10 points in the fourth including the go-ahead putback with 8:45 left that gave Brooklyn the lead for good at 77-76.
Okafor: The veteran center, who missed the previous game with food poisoning, played 28 minutes and finished with six rebounds while making 6-of-11 shots. Of his first five attempts, three came within the basket's shadow. He made all three, including a nice hook. The other attempts came from the foul line area. They missed and not in a "in-and-out" kind of way. Okafor also missed all four of his free throw attempts. This is essentially what you can look forward from him offensively. Ideally, Okafor stays around the rim and lets Nene and Kevin Seraphin handle the 10-15 footers. Of course...
And the bonus...Nene and Seraphin both missed the game, leaving the primary center minutes to Okafor. Seraphin, who suffered a calf injury five minutes into Saturday's win at Cleveland, is also out for the Wizards game Wednesday at Toronto. Chris Singleton (right shoulder contusion) sat out for the second straight game. Guess it also needs to be said, John Wall did not play...Jan Vesely showed some of that assertive game his coach is looking for, but he also committed five fouls and was scoreless in 27 minutes...New York native A.J. Price (five points) committed a hard foul on Deron Williams in the final minute after losing the ball on the other end following contact. Based on the postgame chatter, this should be an interesting matchup to watch when the teams next hook up - assuming Price is on the court. Yes, the Wizards point guard battle remains in flux.