The Washington Wizards improved to 11-13 on the year as they topped the Brooklyn Nets, 113-107, in their first win in Brooklyn since 2012. Nene, in his first game back since leaving midway through Washington's loss to the Bucks on December 6th, was spectacular, finishing with 17 points and three rebounds in only 23 minutes of playing time.
This game was a good win for a couple of reasons. One, Nene and Bradley Beal both looked like they hadn't missed a beat since missing an extended period of time with injuries. Two, and maybe most significantly, John Wall and Trevor Ariza were the only players to see more than 30 minutes of action despite Washington leading by less than 10 for the majority of the game. Now that Nene, Beal and Otto Porter are healthy, the depth issue that plagued the team for much of the season seem like they could very well be a thing of the past. Sure, the Wizards fall to pieces when Nene and Wall are off the court, but with a relatively healthy roster, it's a lot easier for Randy Wittman to stagger their minutes and avoid playing Eric Maynor heavy minutes.
The Wizards' next game is against Jordan Crawford and the Celtics in Boston on December 18th. In the meantime, here are a few game notes.
- Nene looked like he hadn't missed a step tonight. He was excellent on both ends of the court in his first game back since sitting out for a week or two with foot problems. He hit a few key free throws late in the game and was involved in a key sequence in which Beal hit a three late in the game to extend the Wizards lead to six with only 1:08 left in the game. He didn't have a ton of rebounds but you can live with that when he bring so many intangibles benefits to the team.
- Wall was great tonight and, at a minimum, held his own against Deron Williams. As usual, he was the driving force behind Washington's transition attack and did a solid job of checking Williams in one on one situations. He had a key block late in the game that may not have made the difference between winning and losing but certainly helped to seal the deal for the Wizards. He finished the night with 21 points and six assists in 38 minutes and didn't miss a shot in the first half.
- Trevor Booker was very good, finishing with seven points and 13 rebounds in only 24 minutes of playing time. Between his rebounding, energy and much-improved jump shot, Booker is making a very strong case that he should be the team's first big off the bench this year. He did well battling
- Joe Johnson, despite finishing with a relatively pedestrian 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting in 42 minutes, looked almost unguardable when matched up against Beal. Not to rain on anyone's parade and there are very few if any shooting guards who can match Johnson's size and length, but this could be an issue for the team in the playoffs if they're matched up against a team like Brooklyn or Indiana if the Pacers choose to go small. Beal's not a bad defender per se, he's just relatively undersized and struggles to defend longer players who can shoot.
- Washington shot 43% on the night versus 53% for the Nets, yet still pulled out the win. How did this happen? Washington had 20 more rebounds, made three more three pointers and finished with five more made free throws than the Nets. This is probably old hat to most of the people who will be reading this, but field goal percentage isn't the be all, end all when it comes to offensive efficiency, and this game proved that.
- Marcin Gortat is continuing to struggle on offense, finishing with ten points on 11 shots tonight. He seemed to go to the basket more than normal tonight, but Brooklyn's length, with Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez patrolling the paint, seemed to both him.
- Bradley Beal looked good in his second night. His minutes were, thankfully, limited to 29 and he delivered 15 points on 10 field goal attempts along with four rebounds. He also hit a key shot late in the game and looked like, well, the same old Bradley Beal who was hitting threes like a mug throughout the first month of the season.