The Washington Wizards, led by new center Nene's 22 points and 10 rebounds, went into New Jersey tonight and crushed the Nets 108-89, decisively out-playing the home team in the first, third and fourth quaters.
It's been a long time since the Wizards had a real offensive presence in the pivot -- New Jersey game analyst Mike Fratello went all the way back to Jeff Ruland in the 1980s -- but Washington had the big body scorer they've longed for for many years tonight as Nene, in his first game with his new team, hit 9 of 13 shots, repeatedly posting up defenders and dropping short jump hooks over their heads. However, Nene also scored on a nice drive through the lane on the first play of the game and later hit a sweet jumper from 17 feet away. Between those two plays Nene also scored on a beautiful reverse layup. All in all it was a complete performance from Washington's newest player, giving the Wizards and their fans plenty of hope for the future.
Shooting guard Jordan Crawford had his stroke tonight, hitting 7 of 13 from the field and 8 of 10 from the stripe to lead all scorers with 23 points. John Wall added 12 points and 8 dimes, while Roger Mason led all bench scorers with 16, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Kevin Seraphin came off the bench for another strong game, hitting 6 of 7 shots for 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 16 minutes of play. However, Seraphin also had five personal fouls in those 16 minutes, so any over-excited fans thinking he should move into the starting lineup need to think again.
The Wizards caught a break in the third quarter when Nets superstar guard Deron Williams [17 points, 4 dimes, 4 turnovers, -18 court ratio] argued with referee Leon Wood about a non-call and quickly got thrown out of the game. Moments later Nets Head Coach Avery Johnson got the hook, as well. The Wizards were leading at the time and Williams was clearly frustrated by the course of the game, but the loss of the team's best player, by far, clearly took a lot out of the home team. The Wizards quickly built a double digit lead and whenever the Nets threatened to make a game of it, Roger Mason would nail a 3-pointer to keep the game out of reach.
What impressed me the most about tonight's win, though, was the physical nature of Washington's game. Front court players Nene, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker played with a lot of aggression tonight, hitting the boards, playing defense and, with Booker in particular, setting some tough picks. Nene looked very comfortable in the lane, scoring easily most of the time and looking for cutters -- something you never saw with Javale McGee. Nene had only two assists because the Wizards were not doing much cutting, probably because they're not used to the ball coming out of the paint. They need to change that, though, because Nene is known as a good passer, from the post or otherwise.
It was a lot of fun to actually watch the Wizards tonight -- and not just because they beat up a bad team. [Let's not forget they did beat a bad team.] Trading away two knuckleheads who never passed -- McGee and Nick Young -- and sending a fat layabout home -- Andray Blatche -- changed the nature of the team tonight. The Wizards hustled more, passed more, played more defense, crashed the boards and generally looked a lot more like an actual team rather than a collection of individuals trying to run up their stats during lopsided losses.
It's only one win and it came against an awful team, but the Wizards have to start somewhere. Hopefully, this game was the first step on the long journey back to respectability.
Please feel free to add your thoughts about the game in the comments section of this post.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nene -- 22 points, 9 of 13 shooting, 10 rebounds, 2 assists