February 23, 2020

Washington Wizards Game 5 Review: Nene, Ariza help Wizards top Nets in the nick of time

At the start of Friday night’s matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards appeared headed for a 1-4 start entering into a three-game road stretch.

That is, until a second-half surge and timely production from Nene and Trevor Ariza lifted the Wiz Kids to a less-than-likely 112-108 overtime win over Jason Kidd’s Nets.

Trailing 99-97 with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett laid down a block on John Wall before the Wizards nabbed the rebound. Wall tried once more with a missed layup before Nene sank the putback to send the game into overtime.

But the shot accounted for just two of his 12 total points tallied in the quarter and, without all of them, the Wizards would have stood little chance against Brooklyn’s all-star cast of players.

“Nene was huge in that fourth quarter and overtime,” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said after the game. “No question about it – I’ve stated this a number of times. He’s so important to us, not just points and stat sheets.  It’s not a stat sheet thing with Nene. His presence on the floor goes a long way, both offensively and defensively.”

Perhaps the biggest play of the game, however, came with just 40 seconds left in overtime. After Paul Pierce got called for traveling, Ariza sank a 26-footer to put Washington in front 108-106. Wall drew a foul and sank each of his free throws to finally add padding to the Wizards’ lead before Bradley Beal’s free baskets closed the book on the night.

To reach that point was no easy feat.

To start, Washington’s defense held both Garnett and Pierce to a miserable four points apiece through on the night, an unexpected achievement for a team still finding its rhythm. The Wizards and Nets also finished with an equal 40 points in the paint. And, both Marcin Gortat and Nene came up big with huge blocks, allowing the Wizards second-chances coming off missed opportunities at the net.

By the end of the night, Beal matched his career-high 29 points, while Nene added 20 and Wall, another 17. Wall also put on quite the show at the Verizon Center by contributing half of the Wizards’ 28 total assists.

Early in the game, Wall appeared to have two left feet. Be it a result from lingering back spasm woes or the simple challenge of finding the right pace to keep, Wall failed to drive inside throughout much of the first half. In fact, in the first 12 minutes of play, he managed just one basket – a three-pointer he sank at the buzzer to end the first quarter.

Nonetheless, the Wizards started the third quarter on a 12-2 run to gain a 65-60 lead, largely on the backs of Beal and Gortat. But, as is often the case with the Wizards, they came back only to quickly hand back the lead and, as a result, they closed out the quarter tied 73-73.

But Friday night’s game put a break in the pattern. This time, the Wizards showed fight and, perhaps more importantly, they shared the ball.

“If you want to be a good team and have a chance of being in the playoffs, you got to win close games,” Wall said. “We didn’t give up, we kept fighting and I think us pushing the tempo got them tired and helped us get into transition and get easy baskets.”

And, although a heavy reliance on threes may prove a flawed strategy in further down the line, thus far, the plan has worked. The Wizards’ 10-for-24 from behind the arc made all the difference, considering Brooklyn shot just 6-for-24 from three-point land.

This time, it was not Wall or Beal who posted the most threes, rather, Al Harrington, who went 4-for-6 behind the line to record 12 of his 15 total points on the night.

About Alyssa Wolice

Alyssa Wolice is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Nationals and Wizards. As a former production assistant, she covered the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, D.C. United and local collegiate teams. You can follow Alyssa on Twitter @awolice.

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