Kyrie Irving Leads Nets to Win over Wizards in Blake Griffin's Brooklyn Debut

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 22, 2021

Washington Wizards center Alex Len (27) and Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) defend Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Kyrie Irving scored 28 points and James Harden added 26 as the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Washington Wizards 113-106 on Sunday in Barclays Center.

Irving and Harden also combined for 14 assists, 12 rebounds and six steals for a 29-14 Nets team that has won 15 of its last 17 games.

Six-time All-Star Blake Griffin made his debut with the Nets, who signed the former Los Angeles Clipper and Detroit Piston on March 8. Griffin had two points, two rebounds and a block in 15 minutes.

Nets big man Nicolas Claxton scored 16 points alongside three blocks off the bench. His three-point play gave the Nets a 111-106 lead with 30 seconds left.

Russell Westbrook earned his 14th triple-double with 29 points, 13 assists and 13 rebounds. Alex Len scored a season-high 20 points, and Rui Hachimura added 20 of his own alongside 10 rebounds. NBA leading scorer Bradley Beal struggled with just 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting for a 15-26 team that has lost eight of 10.


Notable Performances

Nets G Kyrie Irving: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals

Nets G James Harden: 26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals

Nets C Nic Claxton: 16 points, 3 blocks

Wizards G Russell Westbrook: 29 points, 13 assists, 13 rebounds

Wizards F Rui Hachimura: 20 points, 10 rebounds

Wizards G Bradley Beal: 17 points, 5 assists


Nets' Chemistry Propels Brooklyn To Victory

The Nets look almost nothing like the team that took the court 12 months ago right before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2019-20 season to be suspended. They have plenty of new faces that were either added to the roster since then or returned to the team following an injury.

Somehow, the Nets have this tendency to look like they've been playing together for years. Harden pointed out how much the chemistry has stood out postgame in an interview with YES Network's Michael Grady:

YES Network @YESNetwork

What stands out about of the Nets for James Harden? Chemistry. https://t.co/3eGwykCMgy

That chemistry manifested itself in various ways Sunday. For starters, Irving, Harden and Bruce Broan routinely fed Claxton and fellow big man DeAndre Jordan in the post for easy buckets:

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

Got going with an oop #BrooklynTogether https://t.co/fG8uN6eFA0

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

The extra pass. Works every time. #BrooklynTogether https://t.co/aH72bWPmBh

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

NICOLAS CLAXTON 😤😤😤 https://t.co/B96dYDl9ky

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

.@_claxton33 in the clutch 💪 https://t.co/PSqwA7yusy

Claxton and Jordan combined for 28 points on 13-of-16 shooting, with Jordan making all six of his buckets.

It also showed on the defensive end. The Wizards shot 53.2 percent from the field, but the Nets' team defense was exceptional en route to helping force 19 Washington turnovers. Beal scored just over half of his season-long scoring average, and the Wizards scored nine fewer points than their season average.

Griffin also acclimated himself well. Sure, his stat line wasn't particularly impressive, but most importantly, Brooklyn outscored Washington by 12 points with him on the floor. He also contributed to the solid defensive effort with this block:

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets


The Nets bench also got up for his lone points:

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

BlAkE gRiFfIn DoEsNt DuNk AnYmOrE https://t.co/dKjuwyoI7z

Ultimately, the Nets washed away a lot of the bad feelings emanating from an ugly 121-113 loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday. They looked in sync on both ends and appear to be getting better and better as the stretch run approaches.


What's Next?

The Wizards will stay in town to play the New York Knicks for a pair of games. The first will occur Tuesday, and the second will be on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET for both.

The Nets will begin a three-game road trip against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET in Moda Center.