Nene not enough, Magic down Wizards

Nene not enough, Magic down Wizards
December 19, 2012, 10:00 pm
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Wizards-Magic game highlights

Have you heard the one about a short-handed 3-win team tasked with playing a division rival on the road in a back-to-back situation with its top rookie sidelined?

What about said team having a journeyman center becoming the 12th different player to start a game for the team this season?

Seeing as Bradley Beal missed the first game of his NBA career with a sore back and Earl Barron made his first start of the season, the answer to both questions is no.

As for the plucky Wizards battling until the game's final moments before losing, it's an all too familiar tale.

Nene scored a season-high 20 points in 25 minutes and Jordan Crawford had 19, but the Wizards lost their fifth straight overall, this time to the Orlando Magic 90-83.

Without Beal, who injured his back during a failed dunk attempt against Atlanta on Tuesday, the Wizards (3-20) had only 10 players available against the Magic (12-13).

Wizards coach Randy Wittman started Barron along with Shaun Livingston, who along with Crawford stood as the only available guards on the roster.

Limited roster or not, Washington drained 9 of 17 from beyond the arc with Crawford, Cartier Martin and Martell Webster each making three 3-pointers. However, the Wizards lost the battle on the boards 48-38 and generated only eight free throws, making seven. Orlando, led by J.J. Redick's 17 points, made 14 of 17 free throws.

Twice the Wizards fell behind by 13 points, once in each half. Both times, they rallied behind Nene, but neither time could they get over the hump.

Playing in his most minutes since receiving 29 in the double-overtime loss against Charlotte on Nov. 24, Nene made 8 of 10 field goal attempts and all four of his free throws.

Down 52-50 at halftime, Washington's offense disappeared in the third quarter, outscored 24-13 by the Magic, who only scored 14 in the fourth. Facing another uphill climb, the Wizards slowly chipped away at the deficit behind Nene, whose layup with 2:53 left made the score 87-83. Washington never scored again, missing its final three shots and committing two of its 15 turnovers.

Against the Hawks, Crawford tallied the second triple-double of his career with only one turnover. Against the Magic the third-year guard doled out six assists, but he also reverted to his reckless ways. Charged with those final two Washington turnovers, Crawford matched his career-high with seven.

Rewarded for his 14 rebounds and four blocks against Atlanta, Barron drew the start, but he also reverted back to the statistical mean. In 20 minutes, the 7-footer finished with two points, five rebounds and zero blocks. Barron missed five of six shots and finished 3 of 16 from the field in the two-game stretch.

Washington trailed by 48-35 midway through the second quarter, but Nene's layup started an 11-0 run.

Webster and Martin each scored 11 points.

Despite his limited options, Wittman did not play Jan Vesely for the third time in four games. The Washington Post reported Vesely was battling a cold.

Washington starts a home and home series with the Pistons Friday at Detroit before returning home for the rematch on Saturday.

By the way, of Washington's 12 starters this season, none of them are named Nene or Wall. Even at the start of the season that's a scenario nobody could have imagined.