When desperation tolled on Tuesday night — first at the end of regulation and then at the end of overtime — the Wizards turned to Nene. In neither case was the final shot his to take. For the former, Nene was employed as a crucial screener and potential bail-out option for Bradley Beal. In the latter, his post position and passing were used as instruments of creation. Neither sequence ended in a score, which at a time as basketball-dense as the first round of the NBA playoffs currently is, might be the functional equivalent of it never happening at all.
Those plays (and Nene’s hand in them) will undoubtedly be lost, drowned out in the greater triumph of Washington’s 2-0 push ahead of Chicago in this first-round series. Yet the possessions in question were telling in the way that all late-game decisions tend to be, especially those of a coach and team making their introduction to the postseason. With Game 2 riding on a single play, Wizards coach Randy Wittman trusted in Nene’s ability to pry Beal free of his defender and make himself available. Then, when given another chance, Wittman made Nene his play’s operational center — the point around which all action would revolve, including the curl up the middle of the floor that would give Beal a second chance to end the night.