Through the opening two weeks of the season, injuries forced the Brooklyn Nets to mix and match their lineups.
Various absences seemed to catch up to the Nets Friday night, and they will attempt to bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the early going when they host the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon.
After using the same starting lineup in 24 of their final 27 games of last season, following the trades of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Nets used their fifth lineup in the first nine games in Friday’s 121-107 loss at Boston. That was their second game of the NBA in-season tournament and, in all, their roster has missed a combined 23 games due to injuries so far.
While Cameron Johnson returned from missing five games with a left calf strain, Ben Simmons sat out with left hip soreness, Cam Thomas did not play due to a sprained ankle that will cost him two weeks and Nic Claxton missed his eighth straight game with a sprained left ankle he sustained in the season opener.
Simmons was injured in the third quarter of Monday’s four-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and is continuing to get treatment until the team feels comfortable enough for him to play.
Claxton is inching closer to a return. He practiced with Brooklyn’s G-League team but might be out again Sunday.
If the Nets play shorthanded again, they will hope to get more out of their starting lineup and a better showing inside after allowing 29 second-chance points and 17 offensive rebounds. The starting group of Johnson, Royce O’Neale, Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and Mikal Bridges combined for 47 points on 15-of-40 shooting from the field.
“(We’ve) just got to be better rebounding on both ends, just boxing out and going and get some on offense, too,” Bridges said.
Washington heads to Brooklyn with six losses in its first eight games and has dropped five of six since splitting its first two games. The Wizards followed a 132-116 win at Charlotte on Wednesday by falling short in a 124-117 home loss to the Hornets on Friday.
The Hornets made just six 3-point tries on 28 attempts, but the Wizards gave up 74 points in the paint, 32 second-chance points and 67 rebounds. Washington was outscored 36-20 in the fourth when it allowed 18 points in the paint, nine second-chance points and 19 boards.
“Obviously, it was a very winnable game,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Take care of one area and I think it just changes the game completely.”
The poor performance in rebounding and interior defense negated a respectable offensive showing. The Wizards barely missed shooting 50 percent as they finished at 48.9 percent and saw eight players reach double figures.
Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards in scoring but was held to a season-worst 17 after getting 33 on Wednesday. Tyus Jones tied a season high with 16, Corey Kispert added 15 and Jordan Poole contributed 14.
The Wizards are hoping to see more from Poole, who is 9 of 26 from the floor in the past two games and has topped 20 points twice so far after being acquired from Golden State.
Washington guard Delon Wright sustained a sprained left knee against Charlotte. He reportedly injured the MCL and will miss four to six weeks.
The Nets swept the four-game season series last year and are 7-2 in the past nine meetings against Washington.