NEW YORK (AP) — Mikal Bridges' shot was off, two fellow starters just got back and two others are still out.
With an understandably spotty offense, the only way the Brooklyn Nets were going to win a game they were on the verge of letting get away was with their defense.
“There was just no other way,” Bridges said. “You've got to win and we were down, so you’ve got to get stops to win and we just locked in and pulled it through.”
Bridges had 27 points and 13 rebounds, and the Nets recovered after blowing a 17-point lead to beat the Washington Wizards, 102-94, on Sunday.
Cam Johnson added 14 points and starting center Nic Claxton, in just his second game of the season, had 10 points and 13 rebounds to spark a huge rebounding advantage and help the Nets finish strong after they had coughed up the lead.
Bridges shot just 11 for 29 but turned to his defense for one of the biggest plays of the game, a steal that led to his layup that tied it at 92 with 2:27 to play.
He followed with the next three points as part of a 15-0 run that turned Brooklyn's five-point deficit into a 102-92 lead.
“I think we did a great job of getting back in the game and just playing with hustle and energy and heart, and we just fell apart a little bit,” forward Kyle Kuzma said. “I think our next step is just figuring what we want to do at the end of the games. Obviously, we had a bunch of turnovers and we really didn’t have any direction out there.”
Rookie Bilal Coulibaly, Victor Wembanyama's teammate last season in France, had a season-high 20 points for the Wizards, who fell to 2-7.
Brooklyn outrebounded Washington 66-42.
The Wizards led by two with two-and-a-half minutes to play, but committed three turnovers in the next 45 seconds.
Claxton had missed eight games with a sprained left ankle, and Johnson was playing in just his third game after a calf injury. Ben Simmons remained out for the third straight game with a bruised left hip and leading scorer Cam Thomas missed his second straight during what will be at least a two-week absence with a sprained left ankle.
Despite all that, they have played well enough to be .500 after their first 10 games.
“So for our group to stay together through this, still try to find an identity on both ends of the floor, I give them a lot of credit for staying together,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said.
The teams combined to miss their first nine shots before Claxton tipped in a miss to break the ice. The Wizards had just two baskets midway through the first quarter and the Nets were already ahead by double figures about 30 seconds later. Claxton’s basket made it 30-13 and Brooklyn led by 15 after one.
Bridges was just 1-for-7 in the second and Washington held Brooklyn to 19 points to pull within 49-41 at the half.
Coulibaly surged into a top-10 pick with his strong play in the playoffs to help Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick of the San Antonio Spurs, and Metropolitans 92 reached the finals of their French league playoffs. He shot 8-for-12 off the bench, but by the time he dunked for his final basket in the closing seconds, it only served to end Brooklyn's decisive run.
Kuzma shot 4-for-16 for his 15 points for the Wizards, playing without reserve Delon Wright for at least the next three weeks because of a sprained left knee.
Wizards: Visit Toronto on Monday.
Nets: Host Orlando on Tuesday in an In-Season Tournament game.