The Washington Wizards defeated the visiting Brooklyn Nets 89-74 Friday in a blowout victory at the Verizon Center. John Wall paced the Wizards with 15 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals, while Nene tied Nets guard Deron Williams for a game-high 20 points on his way to a 20 points, 11 rebounds double-double, his second straight and fourth overall this season.
"Nene knows little tricks of the trade," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame, regarding the defensive efforts of the 10-year-pro. "I'm not going to tell you what those tricks of the trade are," he joked. "You might ask him, but he ain't going to tell you, too. But he's sly, aight. He gives angles, he takes angles away. He's a student of the game. That's a great quality that I think a lot of our young bigs are learning from him. It's a trait that he can pass down to a lot of these guys."
Nene scored 10 of his 14 first half points in the second quarter, as the Wizards out scored the Nets 30-11. Reserve Kevin Seraphin chipped in all 4 of his points within the period, including a fast break dunk atypical of the Nene-Seraphin student-teacher relationship and more akin to former Wizards center JaVale McGee, complete with a post dunk salute.
The Nets sit a spot below the New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division at 29-21 following the loss, yet the 14-35 Wizards have not been able to land a YouTube highlight in over a week, nor did NBA.com clip Seraphin's momentum changing second-quarter slam. NBA.com did, however, capture one of Wall's four steals on the night. Talk about speed.
"That's one thing that he (Coach Wittman) is really keen on in practice [defense]," said Wall after the game. "He doesn't really worry about offense because guys are here for a reason. We have guys that can score and get easy shots. The main thing to be good in this league--especially as a young team--is to play hard and that's what we try to do every night. We create offense off of our defense."
Whether recorded in clip form or not, Washington kept up their 51-31 halftime lead despite a slip at the end of the third quarter. Wall dished 5 of his 9 assists in the fourth--the last three to Trevor Ariza--and the Wizards closed the game out.
"We allowed them (the Nets) to turn up the intensity," said Wizards forward-guard Martell Webster, regarding the late third quarter slip, in which the Nets went on a 14-0 run. "They had a higher sense of urgency than we did. After I think Deron got a three-point shot at the top of the key, off the timeout we came in and that's when we sat down and realized that we can't allow them to out play us at our building. We didn't allow them to take us out of our element. Being poised is the most important thing, especially down the stretch. You got to plain out execute, and we did that."
Webster finished the night with 16 points and has now scored in double-digits four games straight. Ariza scored 9--with 7 of those 9 points assisted by Wall in the fourth--and Singleton scored 6, as the small forward trio continues to excel. Rookie Bradley Beal came back and banked in a three, while Jordan Crawford sat out due to the all too mysterious "Coach's Decision."
"I feel good," said Beal after the game, regarding his return from a sore right wrist. "My wrist isn't bothering me anymore. I had it taped just in case I jammed it again or whatever. I felt good, a little winded, but I was all right." Crawford suffered an ankle tweak earlier in the season, but it's unclear as to whether he is just the victim of the new small forward rotation or if he is less than one hundred percent. Based on his recent game logs, one might assume Crawford is less than completely healthy.
From an untrained eye, Crawford looked fine in the locker room. Of course, everyone had a smile given the three-game win streak. Washington is now 7-1 at home since the the January 12 return of Wall, and 3-2 overall this month. Two more road games and the Wizards get a six-day break due to the NBA All-Star festivities in Houston, Texas. The mood was just right for Webster to crack jokes, and as Coach Wittman walked into the locker room, Webster immediately yelled out, "Someone get that man a muscle relaxer! He (Wittman) walks like an Antarctic penguin." Yet while Webster is quick to joke around, he is also quite respectful.
Former Wizards forward Andray Blatche, who suffered incessant harassment from the home town fans during Friday's game, remains friends with a few of the current Wizards, including Webster as well as Trevor Booker. Fans started to boo Blatche as a Wizard due to his well publicized night life and his lack of production on the court, but from the perspective of the media, Blatche always spoke from the heart.
"That's a good team that's coming together," said Blatche after the game, regarding his former franchise. "With John Wall in the lineup that makes a huge difference and it has shown within these last couple of weeks. Coach Wittman is doing a good job with the team as well. Things are really coming together for them, and the sky is the limit. I'm happy for John and the team. I can see he is happy, and he is playing with a lot of emotion. I no longer play for this team, but I have no reason to root against them as long as they aren't playing us."
Blatche was never to blame more so than Ernie Grunfeld, or even Ted Leonsis, upper management whom decided to extend 'Dray's contract and gamble on late-season statistics that--as we are seeing with Kevin Seraphin this season--prove to count for little over the span of the early, and most competitive mid-season action. Blatche the person doesn't deserve the extent of the fan abuse, yet he admitted he felt he had let down not only his fans, but his own mother--pretty much everyone--while he still called Washington home.
Despite pouring his heart out, D.C. fans continue to berate 'Dray. "We don't feed into that," said Webster, regarding the "Andray sucks" chants, and the whole mess of verbal abuse from fans during the game. "Andray is a good friend of mine, but the truth always has to be told. If you don't handle yourself from a professional stand point on the court and off the court then it will eke in and it's cancerous. And that's why you have to be very responsible and it's unfortunate that it happened, because he's a great guy. I mean, if you know him personally, you know he's a great guy. But in this league you're under a microscope. The crowd here doesn't forget those things."
Blatche finished with 5 points, a team-high 3 steals, and 4 rebounds. He went 1-for-6 from the free throw line, making his final attempt despite the high stakes of not only the casual fan abuse, but the added incentive of free Chik-fil-A for the fans if 'Dray happened to miss both of his late game free throws. He connected on the second of the pair, much to the dismay of the most vocal anti-Blatche and pro-free sandwich fans in the building.
"Afterwards I gave him a hug and told him to keep working and stay positive," continued Webster. "The kid has so much talent. The sky is the limit for him, and once he realizes that and makes it consistent he's going to be dominant in this league, and I truly believe that."
Blatche is a Syracuse, New York, native, and Nene was originally drafted by the New York Knicks (look at that bald head!) for Antonio McDyess and the draft rights to Frank Williams. Washington, now done with the New York scene for now, will head to Milwaukee Monday to take on the Bucks (8:00 p.m. ET, CSN), followed by the Detroit Pistons Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, CSN) before entering the 2013 NBA All-Star (and G-Wiz Valentine's Day) break.