WASHINGTON, D.C. — The prayer was direct and sincere: Nene wanted the ball on the Washington Wizards’ final possession trailing the New Orleans Pelicans by one point. Thanks to guard John Wall’s divine dish, the power forward got what he wanted and so did the playoff-pushing Wizards.
Nene matched his career-high with 30 points, including the game-winning dunk with 0.3 seconds remaining as the Washington Wizards made guard Andre Miller’s debut a winning one with a 94-93 victory over the Pelicans on Saturday night.
Wall had 10 points and 12 assists with the final one setting up Nene’s score after New Orleans forward Anthony Davis made two free throws to give the Pelicans a 93-92 lead with seven seconds left.
“I just prayed. I wanted to finish with the ball in my hands,” Nene said after the Wizards improved to 27-28 with their second straight victory. “They put the ball into my hands. John, he did amazing, penetration right there, he found me right there. It was an amazing victory.”
Davis finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans (23-32). Guard Anthony Morrow made 7 of 8 field goal attempts and scored 18 points, but New Orleans lost its third straight and fifth in six games.
The back-and-forth battle included 22 lead changes, six in the fourth quarter, and seven times tied.
“We were down, we were up, we were down, we up,” said Davis, who battled with Nene throughout. “To come in close and lose especially on a play like that is tough.”
The tight matchup featured tied scores at the end of the second and third quarters, and neither side led by more than five points in the fourth. Washington trailed 89-85 when consecutive layups by guard Wall and center Gortat tied the game with 2:08 remaining.
Guard Eric Gordon’s free throws with 1:08 left put the Pelicans up 91-89. Nene could only split a pair of free throws for Washington with 55 seconds remaining. Following a missed jumper by Pelicans guard Brian Roberts, Wall darted down the lane for a layup while falling down for a 92-91 lead with 26 seconds remaining.
On its next possession, New Orleans worked the ball to Davis, who was fouled by Nene while shooting a jumper.
Wall set up Washington’s final play from the top of the key. He penetrated with a hesitation dribble past Roberts, drawing several defenders toward the basket. That included center Jeff Withey, who left Nene and then could not recover after Wall fed the Brazilian big man on the left block.
“(Wall) broke us down and your natural reaction is to go help,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We could make up all kinds of reasons why that happened. If anyone (is to blame), it was on me not our guys.”
Washington started the day fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards have won five straight in the series, including 102-96 at New Orleans on Jan. 8.
Nene made his first five field-goal attempts and finished 13 of 19. Center Marcin Gortat added 16 points and 10 rebounds before the crowd of 18,385.
The backcourt of Roberts and Gordon finished 5 of 23 from the field for New Orleans. Neither team kept momentum for long as one scoring streak would be offset by the other side’s rally.
Tied at 43 at halftime, New Orleans jumped out to a seven-point lead early in the third quarter. Washington countered as Nene scored 13 during a 21-6 run for a 66-58 lead. The momentum immediately shifted back as the Pelicans scored the next 11 points including five from Morrow.
Miller, acquired from the Denver Nuggets in a three-team trade Thursday, had five points and three assists in 16 minutes off the bench in his first game since Dec. 30.
“I played, probably too much minutes,” said Miller, who stayed away from the Nuggets following a public spat with Denver coach Brian Shaw over playing time. “I’m just happy the team got a win. It was fun to be back out there.”
Nene, who previously set his career-high Nov. 26 against the Los Angeles Lakers, couldn’t hold back his excitement when asked about being reunited with Miller.
“Definitely yeah, you know how amazing he is,” Nene said of his former teammate at Denver. “He’s going to be a great mentor to John. That’s making me more excited.”
That and his prayer being answered.
NOTES: F Martell Webster had three 3-pointers and scored 12 points for the Wizards. Washington finished 3 of 14 from beyond the arc. …New Orleans C Greg Stiemsma replaced Alexis Ajinca for his fifth start of the season. He played a scoreless 15 minutes. … Armed with an extra roster spot after the trade for G Andre Miller, the Wizards activated F Al Harrington. The veteran, who underwent a right knee procedure on Dec. 19, played the final 33 seconds of the first half. … The Wizards play in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Sunday and the Pelicans return home to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
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