INDIANAPOLIS -- A fan politely sent taunts towards Drew Gooden, who signed with the Wizards as a free agent Feb. 26, during Game 1 vs. the Indiana Pacers. "He told me, 'I thought you retired,'" said Gooden. "I said, 'They did but they pulled me back in.'"
The last time Gooden had this much of an impact in a game, it was March 31 in the regular season. He mostly was a non-factor in the first-round playoff series vs. the Chicago Bulls, but the veteran came through in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Gooden, who entered for the last 1:14 of the second quarter for Nene, had his first touch immediately and buried a 19-foot jumper to give the Wizards a 56-43 lead at halftime. Nene picked up two quick fouls to start the third quarter and went to the bench with four. Gooden re-entered and his first touch was an 18-foot jump shot that was good, too. He had a tip-in for his next basket.
"It feels good to help my team win no matter what I did. I joked about it in Chicago when Nene was suspended," Gooden said, alluding to Game 4 of that series. "I played 26, 27 minutes and had two points and two rebounds. I think I did the little things that helped my team win. ..."
"The ball definitely was on my side, getting offensive rebounds and keeping my energy at a high level."
Gooden went cold soon after that by missing his next five shots. He also had a turnover by stepping out of bounds. Coach Randy Wittman re-inserted Nene with Gooden still on floor and it opened other avenues. Nene commanded so much attention and help defense, Gooden was able to exploit the Pacers with weakside rebounding. He was a terror with 13 rebounds -- seven offensive -- in just 18 minutes of play.
"It was all about Drew Gooden," said Wizards center Marcin Gortat, who had 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. "He was outstanding. I guess they just underestimating this guy. He brought it. He's a talented guy. He knows how to put him in position to rebound the ball. His timing was very good."
Gooden tipped in a missed layup by Nene for an 87-78 lead with 6:42 left in the game. He had multiple offensive rebounds and got a tip to go for a 92-78 lead just one minute later. In all, Gooden and Gortat had 13 of their offensive boards. The Wizards had a 19-5 edge in second-chance points.
"Ever since we picked him up, from Day One, he's been terrific for us just giving us that spark that we need off the bench," shooting guard Bradley Beal said of Gooden. "He plays with a tremendous amount of energy on both ends of the court. Defends his butt off. He rebounds the ball. He's able to stretch the floor out."
Foul trouble limited Nene to 32 minutes, but much like Trevor Booker did the job in his absence in the previous series this shows the Wizards can win in more than one way without him.