“I’ll take that shot we got — John going to the basket — every time. We didn’t convert it,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “This one hurt, but I’m proud of them. They busted their tails and gave themselves a chance.”
But the Wizards will be haunted by several blunders, including their 13 missed free throws and a late ejection by Nene, who had a passionate all-around performance before a heated encounter with Russell Westbrook resulted in both players getting tossed — and the Wizards folding. The Wizards have now lost seven consecutive games in Oklahoma City — including two to the New Orleans Hornets when the team was displaced because of Hurricane Katrina.
Washington appeared to be on the way toward a victory when reserve Al Harrington made a three-pointer to give the Wizards a 92-82 lead with 3 minutes 29 seconds remaining in regulation. Harrington then slid in front of a wild Westbrook and took a charge on the other end of the court, setting up a bizarre sequence that ended with Nene pointing toward the ceiling before being escorted off the floor.
After his collision, Westbrook stood over a fallen Harrington and Nene tried to help up Harrington. Harrington nudged back Westbrook, and Nene brushed him away, causing Westbrook to stumble. Westbrook then shoved Nene, who didn’t budge and just smiled.
Officials reviewed the play and assessed both players technical fouls. Because both had already gotten taunting technical fouls in the third quarter — following an earlier sequence in which Nene blocked Westbrook’s attempted layup, shouted and got chest-to-forehead with him — they were ejected.
“When you have a technical already, you have to be smart,” Wittman said.
In the locker room afterward, Nene claimed that he was only trying to assist his teammate off the floor and believes that one of the technicals will be rescinded after the league reviews the play. “Things we can’t control, we can’t talk much about, really. That’s my opinion,” Nene said. “Until I got out, the team was up 10. We help each other. After that we lost the game. It’s hard to swallow that kind of loss.”
Nene’s teammates couldn’t hold on in his absence as the Thunder scored nine straight points and pulled within 92-91 when Serge Ibaka (25 points, 12 rebounds) drove down the lane and dunked with 1:09 left. Beal answered with a long jumper and Ibaka threw in a rebound put-back before Beal again made an incredible play, driving the ball right at the rim and making a layup to give the Wizards a 96-93 lead with 18.8 seconds remaining.
Durant wouldn’t be upstaged as he stared down Trevor Ariza and made a pull-up three-pointer to tie the game. “He made shots,” Ariza said of Durant. “That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s one of the best offensive players the game has ever seen.”
Beal picked up where he left off in the previous game against Brooklyn, in which he matched his career-high with 29 points. He made six three-pointers, continuing his stellar play against a team that expressed interest in acquiring him before last season.
In his first career game against the Thunder last January, Beal recorded his first career game-winning basket as he made a one-handed runner as time expired at Verizon Center.
He missed the rematch in March, and the Thunder trounced the Wizards by 23 points. Beal made up for his absence on Sunday with a cold-blooded shooting display in the second half, when he carried the Wizards offensively and made his first four attempts from long distance.
With a chance to end the game in regulation, Beal drove inside but missed a short one-handed runner in the lane as time expired. “It was almost the same shot,” Beal said, mentioning his previous game-winner. “I probably should’ve shot a jumper rather than shoot a floater, but it’s a learning experience for me. I’m going to probably be in that position plenty more times throughout my career. It’s something I’m going to learn from and get better.”
Beal gave the Wizards a 103-102 lead with 1:52 left in overtime when he hit a three-pointer from the right corner, and Marcin Gortat added a layup before missing a free throw. The Wizards then surrendered an offensive rebound to Ibaka, which led to an easy layup. Then Ariza had his shot blocked by Durant, who got fouled and made the decisive free throws with 40 seconds remaining.
The Thunder then keyed on shutting down Beal, and the Wizards worked the ball to Wall (10 points, eight assists), who quickly got inside but didn’t finish.
“I thought I got fouled, but you got to play through it,” Wall said. “It was an easy layup you work on every day. Can’t take it back, but it’s an easy point-blank shot I should’ve made. I didn’t do a good job of closing out the game, and we lost a tough one.”