Nene, Beal lead Wizards past Magic, 96-86
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the Washington Wizards aren’t sure if seeding matters.
Washington rallied to beat Orlando 96-86 and move a game ahead of Charlotte for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with three games left.
If the Wizards hold on to the sixth seed, they will face either Toronto or Chicago in the first round. If they drop to No. 7, it’s either Indiana or Miami.
”I think it matters where we finish, but I’ve never been in the playoffs so I don’t really know how it goes,” said Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who had 16 points against Orlando. ”No matter who we get, it’s going to be a tough series and we’re going to have to pick it up offensively. I think defensively, we’re solid, but we’re going to have to start knocking down more shots.”
The Wizards were just 2 for 19 on 3-pointers and Beal made both of those. The bulk of their offense came right around the rim where Nene had 17 points, Trevor Booker 14 and Marcin Gortat 10. Point guard John Wall created most of those opportunities, handing out 12 assists to go with 10 points.
”We didn’t make shots, but defensively, we won the game,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. ”We never did shoot the ball particularly well, but we never lost the edge defensively.”
Orlando will not be in the playoffs this season, but had hoped to build some positive momentum for next season after winning its last two games. Instead, the Magic resorted to season-long problems executing their offense in the fourth quarter of close games.
The Magic were 4 for 15 (26.7 percent) from the field in the final period and committed five turnovers. Arron Afflalo, who led the Magic with 19 points, had the team’s only field goal in the final six minutes.
”You can’t just be helter-skelter out there,” Afflalo said. ”We’ve got to be decisive about what you want to accomplish. That comes with maturity and growth.”
”In the first half, we moved the ball a lot and were making plays,” added Tobias Harris, who scored 10 points. ”We got away from that in the second half and didn’t get any defensive stops.”
Jameer Nelson had 12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for Orlando and Kyle O’Quinn added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Struggling from the perimeter nearly the entire game, Washington kept its focus in the paint in the fourth quarter. Leading 83-82 with just over four minutes to play, the Wizards scored nine straight points on two dunks, two layups and a free throw to push the lead to 10 points.
Afflalo ended the Magic’s scoring drought with a 3-pointer, but that was the only field goal Orlando could muster in the final 6 minutes.
The Wizards held Orlando to just 37 percent shooting in the second half and forced 13 turnovers. That helped make up for Washington shooting just 42.7 percent in the game.
Washington erased a six-point halftime deficit when Orlando committed six turnovers in the first 5 minutes of the second half. Booker had eight points as the Wizards grabbed a 60-57 lead on Wall’s 18-foot jumper with 6:42 left in the third quarter.
Nelson, part of Orlando’s ballhandling troubles, got control of the Magic offense and helped rally his team to 70-67 lead by the end of the quarter.
The Magic took advantage of the Wizards horrendous shooting to jump out to a 29-17 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Washington was 2 for 15 in the first 8 minutes of the game, most of them wayward perimeter shots early in the shot clock.
Afflalo had 14 points and O’Quinn and Doron Lamb eight each as Orlando had an easy time with the listless Wizards for much of the first half.
Washington moved its offensive focus inside in the second period and the result was a run of layups and free throws that cut the deficit to 51-45 by halftime. Washington was 15 of 20 from the free throw line, helping offset a 14-for-40 shooting half from the field.
NOTES: Washington swept Orlando for the first time since the Magic’s expansion season in 1989-90. … The Magic got another surprising shooting display from a reserve guard. Doron Lamb was 3 for 4 on 3s and scored 11 points. Last game, E’Twaun Moore was 5 for 5 from beyond the arc and scored 17 points. … Wizards G Andre Miller fouled out in just 10 minutes. He didn’t score.