Wake-up call: Minutes bump unpleasant 'surprise' to Nene

Wake-up call: Minutes bump unpleasant 'surprise' to Nene
April 15, 2014, 6:00 am
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This subject came up for discussion when Nene went down with an injury earlier in the season and was replaced with Trevor Booker in the starting lineup: Should Nene keep coming off the bench for the playoffs? 

The short answer probably is "No." Coach Randy Wittman, during a 12-game stretch from Dec. 18-Jan. 11 with Nene playing on a minutes restriction after a foot injury, tried it. They started out well but ended up 6-6 and Nene was back in as a starter. But maybe these Wizards have evolved to the point that they can succeed with Nene in a limited role going into Wednesday's game at Boston Celtics (CSN, 8 p.m. ET). 

In Monday's 114-93 rout of the Miami Heat, Nene's third game back from a left knee ligament strain, he had 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting in 24 minutes. Turns out, he thinks that was pushing it. 

"That surprised me a little bit," said Nene, who had played a 20-minute maximum in the previous two games. "I'm looking good but I hope we stick with the minimum we've been talking (about). If I push myself too much I can pay the price. I hope I can stick to my minutes (restriction) for a little bit."

The Wizards (43-38) are 13-9 with Booker starting and Nene not in uniform since the Feb. 23 knee injury. Booker's offense has picked up in the last four games. He's averaging 12.2 points. 

In the playoffs, however, defense tends to tighten and buckets are harder to come by which makes Nene's presence in the starting lineup imperative because he's a more versatile threat. For a young team with not a lot of playoff experience, getting off to a slow start might not be a risk worth taking. Making the switch then could be too late. 

[RELATED: Wizards defeat Heat in home finale]

Nene's play vs. Miami, who were resting their best post player in Chris Bosh, was a good sign though frontcourt mate Marcin Gortat put it all in perspective.

"He's big and I don't think they had anybody out there who could actually hold him," he said. "He started coming back, getting his rhythm, catching his breath, playing well. And obviously coming off the bench he's also playing against the bench players from the other team, too. He was just abusing them all the time. He's just physically too big. Too talented."