Before the Wizards were able to finish the Toronto Raptors in their first-round series, coach Randy Wittman had a convenient case of amnesia when asked about his team -- especially Nene -- keeping calm as the games grew more physical.
In fact, Wittman dismissed the common sense question altogether. After Sunday's 125-94 Game 4 victory for the sweep, which grew testy quickly, he acknowledged it: "We talked about it. I think there's some altercations in these other games, Cleveland and Boston. ... We didn't back down from a physical standpoint but we wanted to keep our emotions in check."
Nene became entangled with Kyle Lowry on a foul as they both went out of bounds at 9:59 of the first quarter. Lowry was trying to sell the foul and his teammate Amir Johnson ran over immediately to separate the players. All Nene did was keep his hands up as if being asked to exit a vehicle by police and walked away from Johnson.
Nene appeared to be pushed out of bounds as he made a baseline move on Jonas Valanciunas but was assessed a turnover instead. Then in transition, DeMar DeRozan fouled Nene hard to prevent him from getting an easy basket.
For Nene, who has a combative relationship with game officials when calls don't go his way, this was a major step. Last season, he was annoyed about being nudged and agitated in a first-round series with the Chicago Bulls. It led to him snapping in Game 3 and grabbing Jimmy Butler behind the neck, getting an ejection in a game they'd lose and a Game 4 suspension.
Lowry soon was given a technical at 6:27 of the first for arguing a foul call drawn on him by John Wall. To begin the second quarter, Ramon Sessions was fouled hard by Tyler Hansbrough to prevent a basket. It initially was called a common foul but upgraded to a Flagrant 1 upon review. The Wizards never retaliated, kept their poise and allowed the Raptors to unravel emotionally instead.
"I felt like the way we were playing defensively we were forcing those guys to play a lot of one-on-one ball," Wall said. "The best thing they can do is get one of our guys ejected and hurt us. That’s how we lost Game 3 last year. … Nene did a great job. He was being hit and physical and wasn’t complaining about any calls and was just doing little things to help us win."
Nene also sacrificed his shot attempts and scoring to focus on rebounding which helped the Wizards get the edge in every game to finish plus-39 against Toronto.