Asked to look back Saturday on Deron Williams’s historic shooting display for the Nets against the Wizards the previous night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Coach Randy Wittman caught amnesia.
“We didn’t play last night, did we?” Wittman said, cracking a smile. “I must’ve missed that.”
Wittman wanted to quickly forget about a game in which his team, which considers defense to be a staple, allowed Williams to set an NBA record with nine first-half three-pointers. The easiest way to move on was with a game on the next night. And it helps if that game is against the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats, whom the Wizards routed, 104-87, at Verizon Center to snap a two-game losing streak.
The dominant win featured Nene using force and finesse inside, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster hitting from the outside, and rookie Bradley Beal once again watching from the sideline. With the victory, the Wizards (20-41) matched their season win total from the lockout-shortened, 66-game campaign last season — and put the loss to Brooklyn in the rear view.
“You can’t worry about the past,” Ariza said after scoring a season-high 26 points and recording his second double-double of the season with 10 rebounds. “You just have to move forward every day. I don’t even remember [the loss to Brooklyn] to be honest with you.”
Wittman was upset with how the Wizards started against Brooklyn, so he went back to one of his more effective starting lineups and replaced Ariza with Garrett Temple. Ariza has viewed himself as a “sixth starter” and started the previous two games for the injured Beal, but he has been more effective as a reserve backing up Webster.
The switch worked out for all parties, with the Wizards improving to 5-4 when Temple starts at shooting guard alongside John Wall. Webster scored 20 and combined with Ariza to shoot 8 of 15 from beyond the three-point line.
.”The Wizards recorded their second-most lopsided victory of the season against a team that has lost 10 games in a row by an average of 21.5 points. Oddly enough, the Wizards had extra incentive against the Bobcats, having lost the first two meetings against them in November, back when Wall was sidelined with a left knee injury. When asked the difference between the Wizards then and now, Bobcats Coach Mike Dunlap said, “Wall. Really simple when you look at the output when he came in.”
Since Wall returned to the lineup the Wizards are 15-13, but the team actually pulled away from Charlotte with their starting point guard serving as a spectator. When Wall sat after playing the entire first quarter, the Wizards led by just three points. When he returned with 1 minute 55 seconds left in the second period, backup point guard A.J. Price — the starter in those earlier losses to Charlotte — had helped push the lead up to 17. Wall gave the Wizards a 57-37 lead when he made his second three-pointer in 18 attempts, from the right corner in front of his bench. Wall finished with 13 points and six assists and recorded an impressive chase-down block on Bobcats guard Kemba Walker.
Walker was the only weapon for the Bobcats (13-49), scoring a game-high 29 points and handing out six assists for a team that has gone 6-45 since defeating the Wizards in double overtime, 108-106, on Nov. 24 at Verizon Center. Gerald Henderson added 17 points.
“It was good to just get a win, period, losing the last two games. We wanted to come out and not let this game slip away,” Wall said. “We did a great job of closing it out.”
Nene had been fighting the past three games through a sore right shoulder that cost him two games, but he removed the protective padding and T-shirt and imposed his will in the low block. The Wizards fed Nene in the low post and he was unstoppable on the drive or with authoritative post moves, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
With Bobcats forward B.J. Mullens guarding, Nene lifted the ball up, did a spin move and dunked. He scored 10 in the second period, when the Wizards outscored the Bobcats, 32-18. After the game, Nene sat with ice packs on both knees and his shoulder, and with his feet buried in a bucket of ice.
“I’ll be honest here man, I was so tired. My god gives me strength because I don’t know how I could play,” Nene said. “We knew this team always play hard like us and they beat us two times on the season so we needed to step up.”