On Wednesday night the Washington Wizards fell to the Charlotte Bobcats. As a result, Charlotte took control of the sixth-seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2014 NBA Playoffs with just four games remaining for both teams. Even with that, though, things started to look more favorable for the Wizards in terms of their postseason chances.
Against Charlotte, Wizards big man Nene took the floor for the first time since Feb. 23. Coming off of the bench, the veteran put up 10 points, one assist and one steal on 5-9 shooting in 17 minutes of action. He didn’t notch a rebound and was 0-4 from the foul line, but for having not played in an NBA game in a month and a half, he was solid for Washington.
Prior to his knee injury, Nene was one of the rocks for this Wizards team. Over 50 games this season, the 12th-year big man has put up 14.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.9 blocks and 1.2 steals in 29.9 minutes per game while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor. While his offensive production has been solid and his rebounding a tad disappointing, it’s what he brings defensively that is massively important to the Wizards.
In 1,476 minutes with Nene on the floor for Washington this season, the Wizards have surrendered just 102.4 points per 100 possessions. In 1,856 with him either on the bench or sidelined with injury, Washington has given up 110 points per 100 possessions. That’s an enormous difference and one that could swing things in the postseason if Nene can get back to form for the playoffs.
While the Wizards simply making it to the postseason is an achievement for this organization in itself, they are also a young team with the potential to cause problems in the East. They may not win a series, but they can make things interesting. They’re much more likely to do that if they can defend at a decently high level and Nene gives them their best chance to do just that.
If Washington stays in the seven-seed, their first-round matchup is going to be an uphill battle. However, they present a much more formidable opponent with Nene on the floor rather than having him injured. With four games left before postseason play begins, we’ll see if Nene can get back to 100 percent and just how much of a difference he can make.