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Howard, Nene call each other dirty; Dudley admits final-play foul

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Howard, Nene call each other dirty; Dudley admits final-play foul

HOUSTON -- The only way Jared Dudley knew how to stop James Harden from hitting the last basket is to do what most players do on the final plays -- foul him. They know that officials generally don't like to blow whistles unless the infraction is severe but considering how controversial the ending was there's a lot to dispute.

Good decision, it turns out for the Wizards (21-24) who'd lost three games in a row and five of six. Harden, who roasted the Wizards for a 40 points in Saturday's game at Toyota Center, overshot the rim on his drive to the basket. Bradley Beal was the primary defender, Dudley came over to help on the bigger Harden and John Wall challenged him over top with a shot-block attempt. 

"If you look at that I pushed him right in his back. You kidding me, with my right hand," Dudley, who had six of his 16 points in the fourth quarter when the Wizards wiped out a six-point deficit with 3:35 left to win 123-122. "He flops so much (it backfired)."

Harden apparently didn't complain about being fouled on the shot but his coach, J.B. Bickerstaff wasn't pleased with the officiating which he said ruined the game.

Harden, who leads the NBA in trips to the foul line, was 10-for-10 from the stripe. The Wizards had lost their best defender, Garrett Temple, to six fouls and didn't have him to use on Harden. They also didn't have Nene after he was ejected with 8:08 left. 

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Nene kept tangling with Dwight Howard and it erupted with shoves that sent the officials to replay. Howard had a technical from the second quarter and Dudley was hit for a flagrant one for his exchange with the big man.

"Nene gave him a hard foul at one point and time and they started getting into it," Dudley said of a previous entanglement between the big men that led to the ejections. "With Dwight, reputation comes in a lot. He gets a lot of quick technicals maybe some guys wouldn't get."

Crew chief explained the reason for Nene's ejection, which appeared confusing because he didn't have a prior technical: "The rulings on Nene and Howard were Nene was initially issued his first technical foul for wrapping Howard in the upper-torso area. Howard was then issued a technical foul for pushing Nene. Nene was then issued a second technical foul for continuing to taunt Howard after that."

Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff was hit with a technical, too, at 3:52 of the fourth. Harden was trapped on the sideline and was called for traveling. However, another official granted the Rockets the timeout but because Bickerstaff left the coaches box and screamed vehemently about not getting the call he was penalized. But after the officials huddled, they determined the timeout call which wasn't seen originally came before the traveling violation.

"Some of the stuff was just uncalled for," Howard said of his clash with Nene. "Especially grabbing people's arms and pulling them and stuff like that. That's not basketball and so that part was frustrating where a regular foul is not being called. I totally get it but when it crosses the line it's not cool."

Nene accused Howard of throwing cheap shots, for extending his arms and striking him constantly in the upper torso and face.

"It's going to be physical and like that but dirty plays are different," Nene said. "That's the way I think."

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

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