Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/6/13
It took three games of half-hearted defense, two games without Nene, and one hefty fine for their coach before the Washington Wizards figured that it was time to finally win a game. In a place where John Wall had never won in his first three seasons, the Wizards put together a complete game, filled with efficient ball movement, aggressive defense and blistering shooting from long distance and defeated the 76ers, 116-102, at Wells Fargo Center. Only four games into the season, the Wizards (1-3) were already in a must-win situation against a team that stunned them in their home opener at Verizon Center less than a week ago. But the Wizards learned from their mistakes in the previous game, when they squandered a double-digit second-half lead. The Wizards once again jumped to a 15-point lead in the first half but didn’t completely collapse after Philadelphia got within four points in the third quarter. Seven Wizards, including all five starters, scored in double figures, with Wall leading the team with 24 points and nine assists. Washington connected on a franchise-record 18 of 33 from three-point range, with Wall connecting on a career-high five. Wall entered the game with just three made three-pointers, but as the 76ers kept daring him, he kept shooting. In the closing seconds, with the 76ers leaving him all alone, Wall pulled up and coolly buried the final points of the game with another three-pointer. Nene returned after missing the previous two games with a strained left calf. Concerned that his ailment had extended to his Achilles’ tendon, Nene had an MRI exam Monday that calmed his worries. Coach Randy Wittman helped put another smile on his face by starting him at his natural power forward spot with newly acquired Marcin Gortat at center. Nene had intimated that his injury came as a result of playing out of position. The Nene-Gortat lineup was effective at the outset, with Gortat scoring 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter. With a decided size advantage inside and Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza creating space for Wall to create, the Wizards’ offense moved fluidly. Wall drove and fed Nene inside for a dunk, and Nene later made a spin move around Thaddeus Young, drew in Spencer Hawes and dumped off the ball to Gortat for a layup. Gortat also added a game-high 12 rebounds. His only huge mistake came in the third quarter when he tracked down a loose ball in front of the Wizards’ bench and flipped the ball over his head – directly to Hawes, who made an uncontested layup to bring Philadelphia within 71-67. Wall responded with a three-pointer and Gortat followed with a tip shot, but the 76ers made another push behind Evan Turner. Turner made two difficult shots in the lane, but Wall once again had the answer with another three-pointer to put the Wizards ahead 85-76. The Wizards still have some tough games ahead, with Brooklyn coming to Washington on Friday, followed by a three-game trip through Oklahoma City, Dallas and San Antonio. But for one night at least, they could let out a sigh of relief that they are no longer among the NBA’s winless teams – and they can also scratch off the first road win of the season. Wall scored 26 points when the teams met last Friday, with 23 coming during an explosive first half that featured him hooting and howling after almost every made basket. He developed back spasms in the second half and the Wizards’ offense crumbled. In the rematch, Wall was much more calm, collected and focused on running his team.
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