Washington Wizards forward Nene (42), from Brazil, and Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) talk in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Washington Wizards used the summer to prepare for the possibility of the oft-injured Nene missing time this season. Their precaution proved wise last weekend when the team lost the star forward to plantar fasciitis, an injury that has plagued the Brazilian big for the last few years.
Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair were acquired to provide depth, and the team also toyed with the idea of aging swing man Paul Pierce being able to shuffle in for some minutes at the four position. Despite those attempts at filling the gap, Washington still found it tough sledding in the first week of play without their prized 2012 acquisition.
Nov. 25: Hawks Edge Sloppy Wizards, 106-102
Atlanta visited Washington on Nov. 25 in the Wizards’ first action since the previous weekend. The in-season break may have played a part in Washington coming out sloppy, turning the ball over and missing defensive assignments, as Atlanta used a strong bench effort to oust the home team, 106-102. Little-known Hawks reserves Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack looked like All-Stars in their two-man drubbing of the Wizards; the duo combined for 30 points off the bench and helped spark a 22-5 run midway through the third quarter which silenced a confident Wizards bunch coming off a big win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in their last home outing. John Wall led the Wizards with 21 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds.
Nov. 26: LeBron, Cavaliers Claim Revenge in 113-87 Blowout
Washington Wizards forward Rasual Butler (8) goes up for the dunk in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Still reeling from the disappointing home loss, Washington found themselves back in action the following night in Cleveland, with the Cavaliers pumped up and ready to go after the previous weekend’s ESPN showdown which resulted in a Washington victory. Without Nene, Washington simply had no answer for the Cavs’ front court of LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. The quartet combined for 70 points and Cleveland ran away from the visiting Wizards, 113-87. The Cavs’ defense did a good job of containing Wall (six points, seven assists, five turnovers) and the rest of Washington’s starters as reserve Rasual Butler was forced into a scoring role, leading the team with 23 points. It was a disappointing follow-up to the Wizards’ first meeting with Cleveland, and showed that the team still has room to go if they want to be among the conference’s best teams.
Nov. 29: Wizards Hold on at Home Against Pelicans, 83-80
A home game against the talented New Orleans Pelicans provided a good test for the Wizards, and Marcin Gortat responded in a big way. The newly re-signed center poured in 24 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks as Washington hung on for an 83-80 victory. New Orleans’ Tyreke Evans missed a potential game-tying three pointer with less than two seconds left to help Washington snap a two-game losing streak. Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 30 points and 13 rebounds.
Next up: The Wizards return to action Dec. 1 in a home game against the Miami Heat at the Verizon Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.