NEW YORK — Nene and Bradley Beal hadn’t shared the court in more than three weeks, each player nursing an injury before being cleared to return in New York. But they share little secrets on the court, either by a head nod or simple eye contact, and the Washington Wizards pair showed they have not lost the connection despite the extended time apart.
With the challenge of maximizing their time while making sure Beal and Nene maintain strict minute limits, Coach Randy Wittman managed to make sure the duo was on the floor when it mattered most. With the Wizards holding a three-point lead, Nene directed Marcin Gortat to set a screen for Beal. Nene then took a pass from John Wall and simply handed off the ball to Beal, who stepped back and drained a three-pointer with 1 minute 8 seconds left that allowed the Wizards to escape with a 113-107 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at Barclays Center.
“I play off him, he plays off me. It’s a good duo we have,” said Beal, who scored 15 points with three three-pointers in his second game back since returning from a stress injury in his right leg. “It’s definitely great to have him back out there.”
Nene returned Wednesday after missing the previous four games with tendinitis in his right Achilles’ and brought back his playmaking and thunderous dunks to score 17 points with three rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. Two nights before, Beal saved the Wizards in his first game back against the New York Knicks — Washington’s first victory this season in seven games without Nene. The Wizards (11-13) are 10-7 this season with Nene in the lineup.
“It was a great victory,” Nene said. “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do big things, but with God’s mercy, he inspire me and I was able to help my team.”
The last time Wall faced Deron Williams at Barclays Center in March, Williams set an NBA record with nine three-pointers in the first half and scored 42 points. Wall wasn’t able to get payback in the same way, but he made his first three attempts from long distance in the first half and then limited Williams to just 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
In his past two games against Wall, Williams has shot a combined 10 for 27 from the field. The Nets (9-16) had gone 3-1 in their first four games since Williams returned from an ankle injury, but Wall attacked him on both ends of the floor. Wall had a team-high 21 points and six assists and made two impressive defensive plays in the fourth quarter, swiping the ball from Williams for a one-handed dunk and later sending Nets fans heading to the exits when he met Williams at the rim to swat his layup attempt in the final minute.
“I remember. It was a barrage,” Wall said of Williams’s huge game last season. “I knew he was playing well coming off an ankle injury and I just wanted to be physical with him and not let him get no easy looks.”
The Wizards have won their past two games after a season-long four-game losing streak and have been getting improved production from different sources. Seven players scored in double figures, with Trevor Ariza scoring 15 points, Martell Webster adding 13 points off the bench, and Gortat having a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
After the Wizards let a 12-point fourth-quarter lead get whittled to one with 1:57 remaining, Gortat fought off Kevin Garnett and tipped in a Wall miss to put his team ahead 103-100. Williams tried to answer with a quick jumper, but Nene snared the rebound, setting up Beal for the decisive three-pointer.
“It makes it a lot easier when those guys are back,” Wall said. "It's a lot better for me, because you can't just single in on me. That takes pressure off me."
But until Beal and Nene are both healthy and able to go full bore, Wittman will have to continue to find ways to creatively manage their time. “It’s a juggling lineup with the minutes restriction and stuff,” Wittman said. “You got to try to handle not losing a lead early in the fourth with not wasting minutes to you don’t have them at the end. I can’t wait till there’s not one. I’d like to get a calculator out there after timeouts.”
The Wizards were 25 of 30 from the foul line and outrebounded the Nets, 51-31, finding a way to win despite allowing Brooklyn to shoot 52.7 percent from the field. Trevor Booker remained in the starting lineup in place of Nene and gave an inspired performance on the offensive glass, pulling down nine of his team-high 13 rebounds on that end of the floor. Kevin Seraphin also recorded his second double-digit scoring game in the past three games with 10 points off the bench.
The Wizards shot 9 of 12 from three-point range in the first half and finished with 12 three-pointers to claim their first victory at Barclays Center.
Washington is 4-0 this season against the underachieving Knicks and Nets and will take two days off before playing Boston on Saturday. “I thought it was one of our better overall games,” Wittman said. “I think it was a step in the right direction with this team. We’ve lost some close ones, but we’ve won a good share of these games. Coming on this trip to New York and over the bridge to Brooklyn, it’s huge. It’s huge.”
Wizards note: Rookie swingman Glen Rice Jr. will miss three to six weeks after having surgery on Tuesday to repair a fracture in his right wrist. Rice had experienced some discomfort in his wrist before the Wizards traveled to New York this week but aggravated the injury while celebrating with his teammates after the emotional 102-101 victory against the Knicks.