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Nets take a big step toward playoff berth

NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets had everything to play for. The Washington Wizards did not.

The Nets played everyone. The Wizards played everyone except John Wall (rest).

The final result was predictable.

Behind a great offensive effort and an even better defensive effort, the Nets rolled to their most lopsided victory of the season by jumping on the Wall-less Wizards early and often in a 117-80 rout Friday at Barclays Center.

“They’re definitely a different team without [John] out there. You can tell,” said Deron Williams, who again narrowly missed out on his first career triple-double and finished with nine points, nine assists and seven rebounds. “Any time you’re missing a guy that averages 10 assists a game, guys aren’t gonna get the same looks. His speed in transition is hard to simulate, and so we just wanted to exploit that, attack that, and I thought we did a great job of that tonight."

The Nets (37-42) have won 12 of their past 16 games. Because Boston (37-42, tiebreaker) also won Friday, Brooklyn remains in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But its magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now two.

“Of course we’re paying attention to what other people are doing, but we’ve just gotta focus on us winning ballgames,” Williams said.

The Nets shot 50.6 percent from the field, dished out 29 assists and hit 12 3-pointers while holding the Wizards to just 39.0 percent shooting. Brook Lopez led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds, while Bojan Bogdanovic was perfect from beyond the arc, as he hit a career-high six 3-pointers en route to a career high-tying 22 points. Jarrett Jack chipped in 14 points and was a plus-26.

“We’re playing like a team," Williams said. "We’re not playing like a group of individuals, and that’s been the difference."

It looked as though the Miami Heat (35-44, tiebreaker) were going to move within a half-game of the Nets on Thursday night. But they blew a 19-point halftime lead, played as bad a third quarter as a team can play and lost to the Chicago Bulls.

The Nets also have had the good fortune of playing some short-handed teams. In recent games, Atlanta, Portland and Toronto have been without All-Stars Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kyle Lowry, and now Wall. The Nets have mostly been able to take advantage.

Now they’re on the verge of making it to the dance. They face former coach Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. The Bucks are a victory away from clinching the No. 6 seed. That would mean the Nets either play the surging Hawks or the LeBron James-led Cavaliers in the first round.

“They’re a young, athletic team that plays hard and plays disciplined,” Williams said. “J-Kidd being over there is probably a little extra motivation for them, so we just gotta play the way we’ve been playing.”

If they do, they’ll get into the playoffs. It’ll likely be a tough road from there.