Wednesday, February 26, 2014
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Wizards win in first game after Nene injury

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[February 26, 2014]  WASHINGTON -- "Here we go again."
 
 That was Washington Wizards guard John Wall's reaction upon learning that Nene, the team's starting power forward would miss six weeks with a knee injury. Considering the team's brutal record over parts of the last three seasons without their on-court tone setter, the showing of concern seemed prudent.

Then, in their first game without Nene, Wall and the Wizards showed they were not about to call it quits. When it comes to playing games on the road, the Orlando Magic probably would not mind taking a leave.

Wall scored 27 points and forward Trevor Ariza had 22 as the Wizards downed the Magic 115-106 on Tuesday night for their season-high fourth straight victory.

Four starters, including center Marcin Gortat and guard Bradley Beal, combined for 91 points while shooting 34 of 55 from the field for the Wizards (29-28). Washington led 62-53 at halftime, by 17 in the third quarter and never let the Orlando within six points over the final 14 minutes.

Ariza made all five of his 3-point attempts and the Wizards finished 10 of 16 from beyond the arc while moving above .500 for the second time this season.

Since acquiring Nene before the 2012 trading deadline, the Wizards were 7-34 overall and 1-6 this season without him in the lineup entering Tuesday.
 


"Another tough injury for our team, something we've been dealing with since I've been here," Wall said. "I know everybody jumped on this thing of 'they can't win without (Nene).' We haven't been winning without him. ... Everybody knows we've got to step up and step up in different ways especially with Nene being out."

The Magic (17-42) committed 17 turnovers, which the Wizards turned into 23 points. Washington also finished with a 13-0 advantage in fast-break points.

Guard Victor Oladipo scored 26 points and forward Maurice Harkless had 22 for the Magic, who matched a single-season franchise-record with their 16th straight road loss. Orlando is 3-27 on the road this season. .

"It's harder to win on the road, obviously," said Orlando guard Jameer Nelson, who had seven points and six turnovers. "You've just got to will yourself to a win at times. You can't have those moments where you have mistake after mistake after mistake on both ends of the court."

Orlando lost two straight games, both without guard and leading scorer Arron Afflalo (sprained right ankle) and four of five overall. Center Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out.

"(The Wizards) got going outside and then it was kinda hard to stop them," Vucevic said. "We never really responded to their speed, their physicality."

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Both teams sank over 61 percent of the field-goal attempts in the third quarter with D.C. area native Oladipo scoring 11 in the period. However, the Wizards ended the quarter with a 7-0 run for a 93-80 lead.

After Orlando briefly cut the margin to single digits, Ariza's fifth 3-pointer gave Washington a 106-95 lead with 4:46 remaining. The shot eventually fell through the net after a high bounce.

"I guess I've been living right, doing the right things," Ariza cracked.

Gortat had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Beal scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half.

Washington learned on Monday that Nene would miss six weeks with a sprained left MCL. He suffered the knee injury during the third quarter of Sunday's win at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Further complicating the interior options, Kevin Seraphin sat with a right knee injury, leaving Gortat as the lone option at center.

Forward Trevor Booker replaced Nene in the starting lineup. He scored three points with his lone basket giving Washington an 86-69 third-quarter lead.

"The rotations were a little bit different," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "You never know how that's going to transpire ... I thought we came out and we were focused right from the start."

The Wizards largely controlled the first half thanks to 18 points by Wall before the crowd of 13,306. Without Nene, the first-time All-Star knows he'll have to take on a "bigger role."

"That's a situation I'm willing to accept and do, and something I've been doing all year, being a leader," Wall said. "One thing I think I think I've learned is that you don't have to do it all by your scoring. You do it by different things, playing better defense, getting your teammates involved."

NOTES: Washington improved to 2-0 in the season series. ...Orlando's last road win came on Jan. 2. ...The Magic previously lost 16 straight games in the same season between Jan. 27-March 21, 2006. ... The Wizards won the first of four meetings 98-80 at home on Dec. 2. The final two games of the series will take place in Orlando. ... The Magic added reinforcements by signing C Dewayne Dedmon and F/G Adonis Thomas to 10-day contracts out of the D-League. ... Game three of Orlando's four-game road trip comes Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards next play at the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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