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Where's Nene? Wizards' big man yet to show up vs. Hawks


Where's Nene? Wizards' big man yet to show up vs. Hawks

ATLANTA -- The puzzle the Wizards have yet to solve is how to make Nene a factor instead of a liability in this second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. Though the series is tied 1-1, Nene has gone 0-for-2.

Nene has produced Roy Hibbert-like stats in two games: 0-for-9 shooting, two points, seven rebounds and six turnovers. 

"He's got to fight through it. He's got to play through it," coach Randy Wittman said about the 7-foot power forward's struggles. "Things in this world aren't perfect. When you struggle like that you got to play harder, be more concentrated. It's a thing that any player goes through. It's just so happened that these first two games he's struggled. We need him to step up. And he will. I have confidence that that will happen."

When Nene has had performance issues in the past, unless he was limited by a foot injury, Wittman has stuck with his veteran in the starting lineup. Where he has adjusted has been in how long he will stick with Nene before going to Plan B. 

So what would that be? Drew Gooden is the first big off the bench for Nene which gives the Wizards a different look. He has three-point range, can beat his man off the dribble and create an up-tempo style that they need vs. the small-ball looks from Atlanta. Kris Humphries had been ahead of Gooden in the rotation most of the season but has appeared just once in six postseason games. He doesn't have a post-up game of Nene or Gooden's three-point range.

The other option is to stick with small lineups, either with Pierce at power forward with Otto Porter as the small forward and bringing in Rasual Butler in relief to keep the floor spread for John Wall (if he can play with his left wrist), Ramon Sessions and Bradley Beal to get into the paint.

Nene was a different player in the first two games of a first-round sweep of the Toronto Raptors. He set the tone by averaging 11 rebounds as the Wizards won both on the road. The Hawks, however, have more versatile bigs in All-Stars Paul Millsap and Al Horford.  Both can score away from the basket on face-ups, shoot from long range, attack off the bounce and rebound with abandon.

"Nene's fine. He'll be good," Beal said. "I think he's thinking a lot, kind of pressing himself a little bit. But he's fine. He just needs to do what we know he's capable of doing, that's dominating and being the best big on the floor. He has to clear his mind of all things."

[RELATED Leonsis will shave his head if Wizards, Caps reach finals]

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall coming back, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32 on the season. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed. 

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

With a march on Washington planned for this weekend following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were invited by the Wizards to attend their Friday morning practice at Capital One Arena.

About 20 of the kids showed up to watch the Wizards practice, took pictures with players, got a tour of the facilities and walked away with Wizards hats and gear. It was a small break away from what has been a tumultous time ever since the massacre at their school on Feb. 14.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis was on hand to speak with the students, who are set to lead the 'March For Our Lives' through downtown Washington on Saturday.


Wizards guard Bradley Beal met with the media after taking photos with the students.

"For us to be able to take their mind off of it for just a few minutes is always a great feeling," Beal said. "At the end of the day, we're all human beings regardless of our careers are and what our jobs are. A lot of us have families, kids, brothers and sisters. The last thing that you want to happen is what happened to several of those families. You can never imagine."

Beal went to college in Florida and has participated in his own forms of activism. He has found inspiration in the efforts by Stoneman Douglas students. They have taken what happened to their school as a catalyst for what they hope produces change in the ability to protect similar attacks from happening again.


Beal, 24, finds that admirable.

"It's amazing sometimes to learn from the youth on how to do things," Beal said. "It's a testament to where our world needs to lead to, to where we need to get to and to come together as a society. It starts with us as the younger generation. We've gotta come together with love and do things like this. I think what they're doing is awesome. It's spreading positive vibes and it's true humanitarian work that they're doing."

The Stoneman Douglas students are expected to attend Friday night's Wizards-Nuggets game as well.

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