The Brazilian big man caught a pass from John Wall and dunked with such authority, his leg kicked out wildly and the elastic band that held his dreadlocks in place came loose, causing his hair to dance about his head.
In the fourth quarter on Monday, Nene left no doubt that he was ready to finally get that first road victory over an Eastern Conference opponent. The Wizards had allowed the Bucks to score six straight points and get within 81-78 with about nine minutes remaining, so Coach Randy Wittman replaced Kevin Seraphin with Nene.
Nene quickly spun around Bucks rookie John Henson, made a jump hook and converted a three-point play. He then made a 16-foot jumper to help the Wizards push the lead back up to 12 points.
“When we went back to him in that stint, he stabilized things for us,” Wittman said.
Rookie Bradley Beal had the highest point total of any Wizard this season, as he posted a career-high 28 points against the Bucks, but Washington wouldn’t have snapped a four-game road losing streak – and a 14-game road losing streak against conference foes – without Nene continually halting Milwaukee runs with some clutch production.
“He was definitely a big factor,” Bucks Coach Jim Boylan said. “It’s very comforting as a coach when you can come down every time and throw the ball into your big guy and feel confident that he can score and draw fouls. [The Wizards] took advantage of that.”
Nene recorded his third consecutive double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing a season-high 13 rebounds in a season-high 37 minutes. It was the first time the 6-foot-11 forward had posted three straight games with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds since Dec. 20-26, 2008 – and the first time had consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds as a member of the Wizards.
But Nene also had six assists, setting up Beal on four of his 10 field goals. “That’s one thing about this team, when we get him going in the post, he can pass and he can score and he’s an unselfish big man,” John Wall said of Nene. “So it’s pretty tough to double team off him. Other guys are making plays and making assists.”
Nene fed Beal for a running jumper that put the Wizards ahead 96-85, but the Bucks scored the next five points and Nene again made the necessary plays. He knocked down a jump hook over Sam Dalembert, then stole the ball from Dalembert to set up two Wall free throws that pushed the Wizards’ lead back up to 100-90.
“I didn’t think,” Nene said. “I just try to help my team and I try to make the right decision. Passing the ball, shooting the right time. It was a good game.”
The Wizards (15-35) have won four in a row and 11 of 18 overall and Nene is confident that this run is not done. “We have the players together, all the healthy players,” he said. “We start recognizing each other. And we going to play hard every time.”