WASHINGTON (AP) — If Trevor Ariza can hit every 3-pointer he takes, if four starters can routinely score 20 points, if Marcin Gortat can keep asserting him as an inside scoring threat, and, well, if the opponent is always the Orlando Magic, the Washington Wizards will do just fine without Nene.
In their first game since their Brazilian big man's latest injury, the Wizards took advantage of a favorable opponent and showed they know how to win without him. John Wall had 27 points and seven assists, Trevor Ariza scored 22 points by making all five of his 3s, and Gortat added 21 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday night in a 115-106 win over the Magic.
"I automatically tried to put myself in the situation to score," said Gortat, who was 9 for 13 from the field. "I yell to John. Sometimes he's going to yell back at me, then I would just say, 'Hey, Nene's not here.' This is what I've got to do to lead this team, help this team inside, and I'm going to run to the block and demand the ball, and I believe I'm capable of doing it."
Bradley Beal added 21 points, giving Washington four 20-point scorers for the first time since April 6, 2010. The Wizards have won a season-high four in a row to move one game above .500. They also improved to 2-6 this season without the pivotal but oft-injured Nene, who sprained the MCL in his left knee Sunday in a win at Cleveland and is expected to miss six weeks.
Victor Oladipo scored 26 points and Nikola Vucevic added 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Magic, who tied a single-season franchise record by losing their 16th consecutive road game. They remain without leading scorer Arron Afflalo, who missed his second game with a sprained right ankle.
"We scored," Vucevic said. "We just couldn't get stops, and you can't do that on the road."
In case there was any thought that Nene's injury would give the Wizards a convenient excuse to miss the postseason for the sixth straight year, owner Ted Leonsis began the day with a wakeup call via his blog, posting "Our goals have not changed in any way" and the team must overcome injuries and "whatever else comes our way."
Leonsis has made it clear that another year in the NBA lottery would not be acceptable. The Wizards sit in fifth place in the weak Eastern Conference, and coach Randy Wittman and team president Ernie Grunfeld are both in the last season of their contracts.
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