Strong 1st half carries Wizards to victory
The Miami Heat arrived in town early. The two-time defending NBA champions' itinerary involved a few stops before hitting the Verizon Center on Wednesday night to face the Wizards. Most notably, visiting with President Barack Obama and the First Lady at the White House.
According to Nene, the Wizards, who had yet to win a home game in 2014, had only item on their agenda: Win. Tunnel vision proved decisive.
"They came here, whatever. They went to the White House, whatever. We just came here to play," Nene said following Washington's 114-97 victory. "We played hard, played together. It was business."
The Wizards' took care of business immediately. Making his second straight start, Nene finished with 19 points and career-high nine assists, yet perhaps his most important play came defensively. In the game's opening minute, he swatted away an attempted layup by LeBron James. The game's tone had been set.
"It got us going," said Trevor Booker, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. "It let them know we were ready."
Washington's first quarter offense also sent a message to Miami that this would be no ordinary outing. The Wizards shot 17 of 22 (77.3 percent) from the field, ending the period with a 43-18 lead. At one point, the Wizards made 10 straight attempts with most coming during a 20-0 run. Nene, John Wall and Trevor Ariza combined for 10 of Washington's 12 assists. All five 3-point attempts fell through the net.
"It was amazing. It looked like a video game," Nene said excitedly following the win as Washington improved to 2-14 versus teams with winning records. "We were 77 percent. It was amazing. Talk about 3-pointers, 2-pointers, the way we passed the ball, the way we defended, the way we communicated."
The lead ballooned to 34, but the Heat rallied back within nine points entering the fourth. The visitors also emptied their energy tanks in the process, never pulling any closer.
"I really think we took a toll on them tonight," said Martell Webster, who scored 11 off the bench. "In the fourth quarter I didn't think they had anything left."
Now the Wizards must build on this effort. Back-to-back games with Eastern Conference foes Chicago and Detroit come Friday and Saturday. At least they have game plan to follow.
"If we do that even 50 percent of that, we're going to win a lot of games," Nene said. "We just need to maintain. We just need to watch this game and see what we're doing good, what we're doing bad. Keep fixing our mistakes."
The Wizards certainly need to keep that tunnel vision - and perhaps plan White House visits for all future opponents.