Alex Brandon/Associated Press
In the battle of big men tonight, Nene badly out-dueled All Star Brook Lopez, leading the Washington Wizards to a convincing 89-74 victory over the Brookly Nets in front of 19,614 at the Verizon Center tonight. The win improves the Wizards to 14-35 [11-14 at home] and drops the Nets to 29-21 [11-12 on the road]. Washington moves into a third place tie with the Orlando Magic in the Southeast Division. Tonight was only the second time in 20 games that the Nets have lost to a team with a sub-.500 record. The thing is, the Wizards are not playing like a sub-.500 team right now.
The Wizards are 10-7 since January 7 and went 3-0 this week, sweeping the first-place Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, the first-place New York Knicks on Wednesday and the second-place [29-21] Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. Washington is 9-7 since the return of John Wall and have won 9 of their last 10 games at home. Suddenly, a ticket to a Wizards game isn't guaranteed misery, it's an invitation to fun and winning basketball.
The Wizards and Nets battled back and forth in the first quarter, with Washington emerging with a one point lead, 21-20, at the start of the second quarter. It was then that the Wizards made their decisive move. Washington scored 17 of the first 18 points of the quarter, as the Nets went ice cold, missing their first 12 shots from the field. The Nets didn't hit a shot until there was only 3:36 left in the first half and the 11 points they scored in the second quarter is tied for the lowest point total of any Wizards opponent in a quarter this season. Washington scored 30 points in the quarter and led 51-31 at halftime.
The Wizards extended their lead to 23 with an Emeka Okafor fadeaway jumper early in the third period, but things went downhill from there during the rest of the period. Washington hit a dry spell, unable to hit outside shots, unable to get good looks, and turning the ball over on consecutive possessions. Deron Williams [20 points] led the Nets comeback with a 3-pointer and Brooklyn went on a 14-0 run to cut the lead to single digits.
However, just as it looked like the Wizards might collapse altogether, Martell Webster [16 points, 6-9 shooting, 3-5 on 3-pointers, 4 rebounds] hit a trey to push the lead up to 14. Then, in a true highlight play, John Wall stole the ball and led a fast break, spinning in the paint and dishing off a no-look pass to a streaking Trevor Ariza, who rose up uncontested and slammed the ball home. The Wizards led 74-58 and the Nets would never make it close again. The Wizards outscored Brooklyn 24-21 in the final period to seal the win.
The Wizards didn't shoot well, apart from Nene [9-13 from the field] and Martell Webster, who continued his solid play, but they overcame the Nets with solid defense almost the entire night. It's not a fluke either, the Wizards have held 8 straight opponents, and 16 of their last 18, under 100 points.
In his first game back from a wrist injury Bradley Beal looked very rusty, scoring 3 points, missing 4 of 5 shots and committing 3 turnovers in 17 minutes. He did grab 4 rebounds, however.
Nene was fantastic all night, scoring 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and helping to fend off a 4th quarter rally attempt by the Nets with a pair of beautiful spinning layups where he finished with his left hand, leaving Brook Lopez shouting in frustration and helplessness.
John Wall scored 15 points, but missed 11 of 17 shots. He did come up with 4 steals, 3 of which led to fast break buckets. He did dish 9 assists against only 2 turnovers.
Washington did not get a ton of help from the bench, but Ariza did score 9 points on 9 shots and grab 5 boards. His +22 court ratio was tops on the night.
Former Wizards big man Andray Blatche had a rough night and the fans let him hear about it often. In his first game back in the Phone Booth, Blatche scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a Nets win, but tonight, in his second game back, he was terrible, scoring only 5 points on 2-9 shooting in 16 minutes. He missed 5 of 6 free throw attempts, earning a hearty and derisive cheer from the partisan Wizards crowd with every brick shot.
The Wizards shot 45% from the field and 44% [7 of 16] on 3-pointers. They didn't have a home court advantage at the line, though, taking only 11 free throws and hitting ten of them. The Nets had 32 free throws, hitting 19 of them [59 percent]. Harasssed all night by Wizards defenders, the Nets hit only 33 percent of their shots and under 28 percent of 3-pointers.
This was Washington's final home game before the All Star break. The Wizards' next game is Monday in Milwaukee against the 25-23 Bucks.