Despite double overtime, a dramatic turn at the free throw line, and a heroic effort by Nene, the Wizards still couldn’t get into the win column, losing 108-106 to the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday at Verizon Center.
In an almost eerie reversal of fortune, the Bobcats' win over the Wizards improved their record to 7-5. The Bobcats managed just seven wins all of last season, and set an NBA record for the worst winning percentage on NBA history.
The Bobcats victory also kept the Wizards winless, with a franchise-worst 0-11 start. Although the Bobcats aren’t the inept squad they were last season, they presented the Wizards with one of the easier opponents they’ll have in next two weeks.
After the game, coach Randy Wittman once again struggled to find words to explain the team’s latest loss.
“I tell the guys and they think sometimes I’m crazy, but it’s hard to win,” Wittman said. “I’m not pointing a finger at my players. Obviously it lies with me. I know it lies with me and I’ve got to figure out a way to get this right. That’s what my job is.”
Even with Nene returning to the lineup, the Wizards still struggled to find a cohesive offensive rhythm. Nene presence did make a difference – Washington outscored Charlotte when Nene was on the floor, just as they did in Atlanta – but it wasn’t enough of a difference to get the Wizards in the win column.
Once again, it was a tale of two squads as the Wizards bench outscored a struggling starting lineup. Led by Martell Webster (21) and Nene (19), the bench scored 68 of the Wizards 106 points.
Washington kept pace with Charlotte in the first half, and had the lead 51-50 at halftime, until once again, they were unable to lose out the game in the fourth quarter. It was Martell Webster with the hot hand, as four bench players managed to score in double figures, including Chris Singleton (13) and Emeka Okafor (11).
For the starters, who managed just 38 points, only Bradley Beal scored in double figures with 13 points.
The Wizards were hoping to get enough production out of the rest of the team to limit Nene’s minutes, but the team needed his presence on the floor to be effective. Nene and Webster were both a plus-22 for the game to lead all players on both teams. Nene easily exceeded whatever limits Wittman may have had in mind for him, playing a total of 29 minutes and nine seconds.
“I have no choice,” Nene said. “I tried to help my team. I knew my limitation. We worked really hard. Everyone on the court played really hard. We need to keep fighting, keep playing hard. We need to win.”
The Wizards had a chance to wrap things up after a single overtime, when Chris Singleton was fouled in the closing seconds while shooting a three-pointer. Singleton made the first shot, missed the second, and made the third, which sent the game into the second overtime period, where the Bobcats outscored the Wizards 9-7.
The Wizards schedule is about to get even harder, making that first win an even tougher task. Next up for Washington will be the Spurs, Trailblazers, Knicks and Heat. Asked if he’s ever been through anything like this in his career, an exhausted Nene looked up and shook his head.
“I lost count, I don’t know how many games we’ve lost,” Nene said. “I just know one thing – a couple of games we were supposed to win. We will keep fighting, we will try together. All the players have pressure – I just try to do my best.”
A shy smile crossed his face.