The Wizards got Nene back tonight after the big forward missed two games [both Wizards losses] and his return heralded a much-needed win for Washington at home against the Philadelphia 76ers, 90-87. Since this is the Wizards, though, there has to be a catch and that catch is that start rookie Bradley Beal appeared to badly damage his ankle when he fell awkwardly under the Wizards basket while playing defense. Beal writhed around in pain while being attended by the Wiz medical staff before being taken off the court.
The Wiz were trailing by three when Beal went down and few in attendance tonight could have hoped Washington would bounce back and win the game. John Wall sank a pretty 18-foot jumper with 92 seconds left to cut Philly's lead to 87-86 and then Wall grabbed a rebound off a miss by Jrue Holiday from 20 feet. Wall drew a foul from Holiday on the other end and hit both free throws to put Washington up 88-87 with 1:04 remaining.
Wall's strong play continued when he blocked a short jumper in the lane by Evan Turner and Nene grabbed the rebound. On the offensive end, Martell Webster missed a 26-footer with 2 seconds left on the shot clock, but Nene pulled down the offensive rebound and the Wizards ran down the clock some more until, with four seconds left, Wall again pulled up from outside -- 20 feet away this time -- and cooly sank a shot with 4 seconds left on the game clock. The shot put the Wiz up 90-87 and Philly called timeout.
Dorell Wright got semi-open for a 3-pointer with 1 second left, but the shot missed and Wall grabbed his 5th and final rebound of the game to seal the deal. Philadelpia had won 6 straight over the Wizards, but has now lost their last ten road games.
Jason Richardson, Andrew Bynum and former Wizards guard Nick Young did not play tonight due to injury. Bynum has not played all year.
Martell Webster led the game off with a 4-point play on the very first possession, but failed to score again in the first quarter. [Webster leads the NBA in 4-point plays, a weird stat if I ever saw one.]
Wizards led 26-22 at the end of the first quarter, but Beal, leading the team with 6 points, looked bothered by his recurring wrist injury after he hit his hand on the backboard trying to contest a layup. To make matters worse, Beal used the hand to break his fall before he hit the hardwood. Beal played in the second quarter, but did not score.
John Wall penetrated into the lane, spun a 360 to evade a defender in front of the basket and dropped a no-look layup into the bucket. It was the best play of the first half by either team and it brought the Wiz to within one point, 49-48. They took the lead moments later when Nene grabbed a missed shot by Jrue Holiday and threw an outlet pass to AJ Price, who attacked the basket and layed the ball up off the glass. The shot was swatted away, but after the ball hit the glass so goaltending was called and Washington led again, 50-49, with 0.6 seconds left in the half.
Nene led the Wiz at halftime with 11 points on 10 shots and 5 rebounds. Webster and Trevor Ariza had 9 points at the half, with Ariza chipping in 5 rebounds off the bench.
The Wizards built their lead out to 10 points with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter with some nice post moves by Emeka Okafor and a beautiful alley-oop from John Wall to a leaping Jan Vesely, who laid the ball in nicely. Philly came back with six quick points to cut the lead to four with just over 2 minutes in the third quarter. They scored again to cut the lead to two iwth 30 seconds left in the quarter before AJ Price chucked a lob pass to Vesely who slammed it home with just over 2 seconds left in the third.
The Sixers scored 8 of the last 10 points of the third quarter, but the Wiz clung to a slim 72-68 lead going into the fourth.
Less than two minutes into the fourth Bradley Beal took a pass from Trevor Ariza and cooly sank a 32-footer to put the Wiz up 77-70 and a few moments later Okafor added a free throw for an 8 point lead before the Sixers came back and narrowed the lead to six again. The Wiz got several offensive boards on the next possession before Okafor hit a jumper from the top of the key, giving him 12 points and 15 rebounds and the Wiz an 80-72 lead.
Things fell apart midway through the fourth quarter, though, when the Wizards went five minutes without scoring and the Sixers came back from 8 points down to take a lead before John Wall took over the game and rescued a win for the Wizards.
All five Wizards starters scored in double figures, with Wall and Webster leading the way with 16 points each. Nene scored 15 and pulled down 9 boards, while Okafor had a monster game with 12 points and 16 rebounds. Beal scored 14 points on 12 shots to go with his 4 rebounds and 3 dimes before going down with the injury. Off the bench, Ariza contributed 9 points, 8 rebounds and solid defense.
The Wizards held the Sixers to under 39% shooting, while Washington hit 40% on 3-pointers. The Wiz also grabbed 50 rebounds to 42 for the Sixers and had 23 assists on 34 made baskets. It was Washington's 16 turnovers, compared to 9 for Philly, that kept the Sixers close.
The Wizards improved their record to 19-39 on the season, with 24 games to go.