Washington Wizards forward-center Nene scored a career-high tying 30 points Saturday in a 94-93 victory over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans. A last-second dunk which gave point guard John Wall his 12th assist of the night put Washington up indefinitely, as the Pelicans launched a too-late three-point attempt at the buzzer.
The 27-28 Wizards received only 21 points combined from their All-Star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, which makes Nene's performance all the better going forward. With only 27 games left to play in the regular season, all eyes will be on Nene as to whether he will stay fresh for when it counts, down the stretch.
Recent trade acquisition Andre Miller clocked 16 minutes Saturday and all but kept former Wall back up Garrett Temple cemented to the bench. Temple has not performed well as of late and Miller--who finished with 5 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds in his Wizards debut--is the better scorer, passer, and rebounder at the point guard spot.
"He is who he is," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame, regarding Miller. "Obviously his legs aren't there. He's a 90% free throw shooter. It's going to take a little bit, get him running up and down the floor, and get his legs back underneath him. He just makes those little plays that no one really sees, like the throw ahead to Brad for a dunk and Brad was struggling. He saw him up there on the sideline and threw it to him and Brad gets the dunk. He is who I think he is and it's good that he's here."
The addition of Miller gives Wall some flexibility, as he has averaged 36.9 minutes this season (#10 in league). Washington will want to make use of Miller mostly to shave off some Wall minutes as the season stretches out to insure Wall's health for a postseason run. If Nene can continue to string together multiple 30-point games this season, Washington is sitting pretty. Otherwise, the criticism of the Miller addition is the expectation, or desire, for a move up front.
Reserve forward Jan Vesely had to go due to the recent success of fellow back up Kevin Seraphin, who scored 6 points off the bench in Saturday's win (even though Vesely notched a season-high against the Pelicans). Eric Maynor, who was seldom used, was, for all purposes, taking up the flexibility of an open slot, and was an easy addition to the deal. The thing that hurts, however, is the loss of a 2015 second round pick for what is otherwise a 37-year-old back up point guard in Miller. It's a risky all-in, but a calculated cost which should allow the Wizards to fight for the third spot in the Eastern Conference.
"He's been in the playoffs and played 14 or 15 years. [I've been] just sitting down and talking to him and picking his brain," said Wall postgame. "That's a guy you can learn from. It's a guy that loves the game and is still playing at 37. I hope I can be playing at 37."
Washington will face the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight (6:00 p.m. ET, CSN) looking for their third win in as many games.