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Wizards roll back clock with super-size lineup


Wizards roll back clock with super-size lineup

Even when the Wizards had shootaround Wednesday morning, John Wall left with the impression that Jared Dudley, who had started the last two times as the power forward vs. the Miami Heat, would be in that role. It was Nene.

Coach Randy Wittman, recognizing that Chris Bosh took advantage of that matchup in Miami's 97-75 victory on Jan. 3, pulled the switch.

The Wizards (20-21) went to Nene early as he scored six of the Wizards' first eight points. He finished with 16 points, six rebounds and five steals next to Marcin Gortat who had 15 points and 12 rebounds. 

"We played a lot of inside-out basketball to start the game," coach Randy Wittman said. "I thought our energy level was good. Rebounding the ball, which obviously with Nene and Marcin Gortat in the game together, would be better than when we go small."

When Wittman went to the duo in Monday's blowout loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Wizards were terrible offensively and had defensive leaks all over the floor. That's because the Heat don't have the shooters to spread them out which allows Nene, who made his first start as a power forward and played a season-high 26 minutes, to be more effective.

Bosh had 18 points and just four rebounds. His frontcourt mate Hassan Whiteside, the NBA's leading shot-blocker, went out in the second quarter with a strained oblique (side) muscle and didn't return. That also made it easier to handle Miami (23-20) as it lost for the sixth time in seven games.

"It's pretty much classically what they've been doing, that 1-2 combo. They're both great passers and very good scorers down low. I saw that they really tried to get Nene going quite a bit," Bosh said. "I just wanted to be there to contest shots. He made them over me, which he probably knew he'd get those. They established him early and really got him going very early and I think it really helped them out."

Bosh scored 23 points in just 28 minutes in the last meeting. He was impossible for the Wizards, who were outrebouned 54-45, to stop. The lost that edge 34-31 in this one. Nene and Gortat combined to shoot 15 of 27.

"They were running a play where Bosh curls and usually gets the ball in his left hand and gets to the rack," Garrett Temple said of the left-handed 6-10 Bosh who also has three-point range. "He curled right into Nene or right into March and it was just clogged up in there. With that size, that's obviously what they can do when they're together. Clog up the paint, rebound the ball and make it tough for them to score inside. ... Nene and March know how to play together. They play really well together, playing buddy ball. You try different things if small ball doesn't work. We can play traditional or we can go back to playing small if we need to."

The Wizards won the first meeting 114-103 doing just that, deploying Dudley and Otto Porter in the post to throw off Miami. They didn't have Gortat, who was out on personal leave or Nene as he was still recovering from a left calf strain. 

The last two playoff appearances featured Nene and Gortat in the starting lineup but the Wizards have opted for a pace-and-space style. The truth is, the teams that do best in the playoffs can play both ways and that's why the roster was built this way. They can go big two two post players or go super-small with shooters all over the floor with Gary Neal, Bradley Beal, Dudley and Porter. 

"It's awesome," Beal said of the duo. "That reminds me  of the past three years that we've all been playing together. It's great to see those two out there working and battling together. You never know, that's what we may stick with and it's giving us a different look."

Against  more prolific three-point shooting bigs, Nene and Gortat won't work as well. It's better to separate them and give the second unit a post player in Nene who can get his own shot. Besides, if he starts at power forward again, who is the backup center? 

Kris Humphries doesn't play with his back to the basket. DeJuan Blair isn't as big, mobile nor is the defensive presence. None of them can create their own shot or for others like Nene. The good thing for the Wizards is if they get healthy -- and for Nene that's a big if -- they'll have options.

RELATED: Wizards smoke Heat 106-87: Five takeaways

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 

The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall remains out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.


The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.

The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home-court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.


By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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