Washington Wizards big man Nene backed down Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett, spun right to get the veteran off of the floor, then dipped back left before kicking out his leg and pushing the ball toward the rim. As the ball bounded off the rim and dropped through the net, Nene turned, hopped and did a little tap dance on those same delicate feet that have caused him so much pain in his time with the team.
Nene’s celebration was one of many expressions of emotion on a night in which the Brazilian forward re-introduced himself to home fans at Verizon Center and quickly reminded them of his value in a 112-108 overtime victory.
“Nene was huge,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “No question about it. He’s important to us, not just points and stat sheets. His presence goes a long away.”
After missing last week's home opener with a strained left calf, Nene scored 20 points — 12 coming in the fourth quarter, when the Wizards rallied from a nine-point deficit with 3 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. Nene grabbed eight rebounds and handed out three assists, including a one-handed chest pass to Trevor Ariza, who provided the go-ahead three-pointer with 40.3 seconds left.
He also blocked an attempted dunk by Garnett, meeting him at the rim to slap the ball away and eliciting a spirited response from the fans – and John Wall, who enthusiastically thumped Nene across the chest.
“Nene was tremendous,” center Marcin Gortat said. “He brought us back. Basically, he won this game by himself.”
He certainly had plenty of support. Wall experienced back spasms early Friday morning and played through pain to contribute 17 points, a season-high 14 assists and infectious hustle on the defensive end. Bradley Beal matched his career high with 29 points and Gortat had 15 points and a team-high 12 rebounds as the Wizards (2-3) won their second game in a row.
Washington overcame a 14-point deficit and snapped a two-game losing streak against the Nets. Brook Lopez led Brooklyn with 23 points, but Gortat helped limit him to just five points in the second half. It was the second time in three regular season meetings at Verizon Center that couldn’t be settled in regulation. They also had an overtime game in the preseason last month.
“I was talking to Joe [Johnson] and he was like, ‘Not this again,’ ” Beal said. “But whenever we play them, it’s always competitive. And you should want that. Whatever it takes to get the win, we’re going to do that. One overtime or 10 overtimes.”
After missing his first seven shots, Garnett gave the Nets a 94-85 lead when he buried a long jumper. The Wizards then went on a 12-2 run, highlighted by a pair of three-point plays from Nene.
Garnett made another long jumper with 37.9 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Nets a 99-97 lead. With under 15 seconds left, Garnett missed a jumper that could have sealed the win. Gortat grabbed the rebound and threw the ball ahead to Wall. Wittman called timeout with 13.2 seconds left.
Thinking that he had a chance to score with the Nets unable to set up the defense, Wall slammed the ball in frustration. Wall then drove to the rim twice, with Garnett blocking his first layup attempt out of bounds and Nene swooping in to put back his miss with 1.2 seconds remaining and force the extra period.
“I take this game like boxing, like MMA. The game was on our side, then the other time it was to them. But the way we play, the way we commit to share the ball, helping each other was amazing,” Nene said. “It was an amazing game. Good for who watched the game and very painful for who [we] play.”
Wall gave the Wizards a 105-101 lead in overtime when he knocked down a pull-up jumper, but the Nets responded with a baseline jumper from Paul Pierce and corner three-pointer from Deron Williams to take a one-point lead. The Wizards went back ahead when Nene drove under the basket, caused the Nets defense to collapse, then found Ariza at the top of key. Ariza's first four attempts from beyond the arc were off, but he drilled the last one to give his team a 108-106 lead. The Wizards never trailed again.
“If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it,” said Ariza,who scored just five points but also helped limit Pierce to just four points on five shots. “Every night is not going to be a good night, but I stuck with it and my teammates had confidence in me to pass me the ball and when I got it, I didn’t think twice and let it go.”
Nene said, “I told him, it was the best shot of the game, when he made the three. I looked at Brooklyn bench, looked like a choir, everybody say ‘F!’ ”
As for his happy feet dance, Nene explained, “KG is the top, the best power forward in the history of basketball. I thank God to bless me to be able to finish that shot.”