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What Scott Brooks told Westbrook after disappointing Boston loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Much was made about Davis Bertans’ 0-for-7 shooting woes from beyond the arc in the Wizards’ Tuesday night loss to the Celtics. 

In the first of two crucial play-in games, the loss meant the Wizards could finish in eighth place as the best-case scenario. In such an important game for their postseason aspirations, Washington’s sharpshooter couldn’t deliver. 

Fans were disappointed as Bertans was extended with a four-year, $80 million deal in the offseason. Is he worth that much if he can’t impact the game offensively with consistent 3-point production? 

Washington faced those questions as they faced a potential third straight season without making the playoffs. Fortunately Bertans and company bounced back with a dominant win against Indiana on Thursday night. 

With Bradley Beal less than 100%, Washington needed better contributions from role players like Bertans. But the offensive struggles can’t be blamed solely on Bertans’ off-night. 

“We didn’t lose the game because DB didn’t make a three,” Brooks told media Friday. “We lost the game because nobody played well other than Ish (Smith), and myself included in that.”

While it’s great to see Brooks taking accountability himself, he wanted a piece of accountability out of his players too, especially one in particular who was brought here to help the inexperienced Wizards learn how to be winners.

“It’s funny I saw Russell the next day doing our Covid testing, and I had him roll down his window and I said to him, ‘Man, you played like dog-you know what,'” Brooks said. “I said, ‘You need to play better.'”

Brooks’ history with Westbrook from back in their Oklahoma City days allows him to be so open with the dynamic point guard when it comes to giving feedback.

And Westbrook did play better the next time out, but he wasn’t the only one. Westbrook nearly notched his 39th triple-double of the season with 15 points, 18 assists, and eight rebounds while leading the Wizards to their first postseason berth since 2018. 

Brooks mentioned another guard who needed some talking to: Raul Neto.

Neto’s feisty and veteran presence in the backcourt has provided much-needed bursts of energy for the Wizards at some of the most opportune times this season. That wasn’t the case Tuesday night in Boston, however, as Neto started and was a non-factor, going scoreless in 17 minutes while Kemba Walker went off for 29 points. 

“I talked to (Neto) the next morning because I didn’t like the way he played. I don’t believe in babying guys, I told him straight up ‘You didn’t play well, is everything alright? Is your leg alright?'” Brooks said. “He said ‘Coach, I just needed that game.’ Ok, we need you to play better, which was last night. I like the way he bounced back.”

Neto has been a revelation for the Wizards this season when Brooks opts to go small with his lineups. He remained in the starting lineup and scored 17 points in 26 minutes and provided a spark throughout.

“I can have those direct conversations with guys that fit in the league they understand I’m not going at him in a way that’ll break them down. I’m going at them in a way that I need them to play better,” Brooks said. “He responded in a big way. I’m happy he’s had a great year, and think he’s going to continue to play this way.”

The Wizards will need certainly need Neto, who was on the 76ers last season, to continue playing at the level he displayed against the Pacers and several of the regular-season games if they are to stand a chance against the Eastern Conference’s top seed. 

Tune into NBC Sports Washington at noon on Sunday for complete coverage of the Wizards’ Game 1 of their first-round series against Philadelphia.