During a recent discussion about how he has developed a more consistent midrange jumper over the past few seasons, Nene lamented about how he struggles making a shot from a similar distance with no one standing in front of him.
“The funny thing, I been making the jump shot. I always considered a good free throw shooter and in the beginning of the season, my first games, I was like almost 82, 78, and boom, after that, I dropped,” Nene said. “It’s a hard, because when you have pride, when you talk to yourself, that thing make it difficult sometimes, when you have like wide open shot, it look easy but it’s hard because you deal with yourself, that’s the only thing.”
Nene has shot a horrific 5 for 14 (35.7 percent) from the free throw line in the first three games against Indiana Pacers, continuing a disturbing trend since he returned from his sprained left knee. In his past 11 games, Nene is 13 of 38 (34.2 percent) from the foul line.
The Wizards were able to survive his inaccuracy from the foul line against Chicago because Nene was so lethal from perimeter, but he has struggled with his jump shot as well against Indiana. Nene had played well in the first two games of the series, but he missed 11 of 14 shots in Game 3 while finishing with a playoff-low eight points. He missed all seven of his field goal attempts from outside of paint.
“Nene had every shot from that 15-foot elbow shot wide open. I love those shots,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “If we can get those shots again, he made shots like that against Chicago, he made shots like that in the first game. When we work our offense to get a wide open shot, we’ve got to take those.”
Nene used humor to express his frustration after a disgusting performance on Friday, when the Wizards set several records for scoring futility to put themselves in a 2-1 hole in this best-of-seven series. The Wizards are 1-2 at home this postseason.
“I start to talk to my father-in-law after the game about that,” Nene said. “I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we have family, friends, our fans and we try to do good and at the same time it don’t go the way we want. That’s the only explanation that came to my mind that makes sense.”
Nene also missed 4 of 6 free throws in Game 3, when the Wizards again left points on the board from the foul line. Washington shot just 11 of 21 from the charity stripe and has missed 26 free throws.
“It’s just a matter of confidence, stepping up and believing,” Wittman said. “But we just got to step up and make free throws. We’ve done it pretty much all year long. It’s got to be a situation, tight games, you know competitive games like this when you leave 10, 12 points out there, you’ve got to make up for that and that’s hard.”
The panic after Friday’s loss didn’t affect Nene, who knows how far the pendulum swings in the playoffs.
“I believe in my team and I feel like we will come back stronger,” Nene said. “Nobody expect us to be in the position we are in right now, but like I said, we believe in each other and on the other side, they have a really good team who was struggling, but now start playing really well…Indiana lost [Game 1], everybody criticize them for days and when they win everybody is like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ It’s the same thing. They been doing well and now we’re been doing wrong, but in the series, I think we’ll be fine. It’s 2-1 and it’s not bad yet. I think the next game is going to be different. I hope we can play the normal way we been playing and make a couple of shot. We don’t need to make all the shot. Just make the normal shot that we make.”