His right foot was swollen, limiting his mobility, but not his confidence. With the Washington Wizards on the verge of squandering yet another double-digit lead at home, Jordan Crawford squared up a few feet behind the three-point line, swung the ball side to side, then pulled from deep.
By the time the ball had splashed through the net, Crawford had already backpedaled beyond half court, confident that the shot was good.
“I felt I could make it and shot the shot. That’s how it always go,” Crawford said after nailing a three-pointer with 51.9 seconds remaining that secured the Wizards’ 121-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. “I could kind of see it had a chance, lucky for me.”
The victory over Milwaukee was the latest example that the Wizards are hardly a team that is packing it in, collecting Ping-Pong balls for the draft lottery and preparing for offseason vacations. Not only did Crawford score a game-high 32 points, but big man Nene returned from a 10-game absence with plantar fasciitis.
“J.C. is going out there with his ankle twice the size it normally is. You got Nene, who came back out there, not 100 percent at all, still contributed. Guys are still motivated, which is great to see. It just shows the character of the team,” veteran Maurice Evans said.
The Wizards (16-46) have nothing to play for but pride, while their opponent, the Bucks, were fighting for their playoff life in an intense battle with Philadelphia for the final playoff spot. But it was hard to tell which team was playing with more purpose, as the Wizards built a 99-87 lead with 7 minutes 50 seconds remaining behind back-to-back layups from Nene, who scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds while playing just 18 minutes.
Nene played just his seventh game since arriving from Denver, and his first three home games all ended in similar fashion, with the Wizards building double-digit leads only to lose the game in the final minute.
The Bucks climbed back within 112-109 when guard Brandon Jennings drained a three-pointer from the right corner with 1:14 remaining. The Wizards had a poor possession. But with the shot clock winding down, Crawford countered with a three-pointer that proved to the be the difference, as his team matched its season high with two wins in a row.
Washington had just defeated the league-leading Chicago Bulls on the road two days before and Coach Randy Wittman told his players that in order for that game to be special, they had to follow it up with a victory over the Bucks, a team that now trails the 76ers by 21 / 2 games for the eighth spot.
“We want to be Milwaukee. We want to be in the hunt,” Wittman said. “If we’re not, let’s cause some grief.”
Crawford sprained his ankle late in the fourth quarter of their 87-84 win in Chicago, but played with it heavily bandaged. He tied his season high in an efficient manner, connecting on 11 of his 17 field goal attempts and going 9 of 12 from the foul line.
The Wizards announced on Twitter shortly before tipoff that Nene would be available, which came as a surprise to many of his teammates. The veteran big man had been practicing with the team for nearly a week, balancing caution with a desire to get back on the floor. He was especially eager to come back against the Bucks, who crushed the Wizards by 14 points when the teams met on April 2.
“The win was sweet after Milwaukee beat us three times,” Nene said. “I got warmed up and said, ‘They beat us last time. I’m going to try to do something here.’ ”
Nene missed nearly two weeks and needed to become familiar with his teammates. John Wall missed a baseline jumper and Jan Vesely (eight points, 10 rebounds) came soaring for an offensive rebound. Nene felt someone approaching over his left shoulder, but didn’t realize it was his teammate. He bumped Vesely, sending the rookie crashing on his backside. He helped up Vesely, then made three consecutive jumpers to give the Wizards an 87-79 lead in the third quarter.
“I guess it feels good, because we don’t have a chance to be in the playoffs,” John Wall said after finishing with 14 points and 10 assists, his 13th double-double of the season. “Coach Witt wants us to go out there and play hard, that’s what he wants us to be, try to be the spoiler.”
Kevin Seraphin had 14 points and James Singleton had 11 for the Wizards, who shot 55.7 percent and record their second-highest scoring outing of the season.
Chris Singleton had 10 points — his first game with double-digits in 10 games — and sealed the win in with less than 14 seconds remaining, when leaped in front of Mike Dunleavy, batted the ball ahead, then pushed aside Dunleavy to scoop up the ball and finish with a breakaway dunk.
Monta Ellis had a team-high 31 points for the Bucks, who have sputtered of late, losing four of five games.