Wittman: Wizards "just kept fighting through"
In just one quarter, the Wizards came close to erasing three quarters of hard work against the Cleveland Cavaliers. And when they face the Toronto Raptors for their third game in four days on Friday, they'll have to contend with fatigue, too.
Washington (4-7) won its second game in a row with Wednesday's 98-91 victory in Cleveland. But it had a 27-point lead at 7:36 of the third quarter whittled to 86-82 on a three-point play by Kyrie Irving with 2:56 remaining in the fourth.
The perimeter play helped the Wizards get out to the big lead, but it was the post play of Nene that helped them seal their second consecutive victory even though Bradley Beal made 6 of 7 three-pointers for a team-high 26 points and John Wall had nine assists.
In a two-minute span, Beal had two turnovers, missed a three-pointer and created the aforementioned three-point play for Irving with a blocking foul as he drove to convert a layup.
Nene steadied the ship. He made two free throws, and as he backed down Anderson Varejao he passed from the low block to assist on Beal's lane jumper. The Wizards got the breathing room they desperately needed at 90-84. Nene had 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.
This came one night after Nene's defense shut down Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter, holding him to one point in that comeback 104-100 victory.
"You learn the lesson a little bit better when you win," said coach Randy Wittman, who already has witnessed his team blow double-digit leads in losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and Cavaliers this season. "The first three quarters and two minutes of the fourth we swung the ball side to side, moved it, pass, cut, open shot. Whoever had it scored it. With eight minutes to go we walked it up. No passes.
"We tried to do everything off of one option. (Opponents) can dig in defensively then. When you're moving, cutting, four or five passes like we were, that was as good of basketball you could have from an offensive standpoint. We just got to keep fighting through it. We'll have those stretches where we'll walk it up and have zero passes or one pass and that gets you in trouble. We held on, made free throws down the stretch. Nene hit a couple big ones when we needed to break that ice."
Martell Webster contributed 15 points in making 5 of 11 shots.
"The easiest thing to do is relax when you're up by 27 points," he said. "They made us pay for that, but we nipped it in the bud and took care of business. This is another step for us in the maturation process."