The Washington Wizards got a big win in Miami on Monday, beating the Heat 114-103 to pull within one game of .500.
The Wizards got solid performances from John Wall and Bradley Beal – that duo combined for 47 points, 11 assists, four rebounds and two steals – but Gary Neal was the difference in the game, finishing with 21 points, four assist and two steals in 36 minutes off the bench.
“This was a tough one coming in here on a back-to-back against a good Miami team,” Neal said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “(We were) undermanned and undersized too, so this was a tough game and a gritty win for us.”
Washington won one night after losing at home to Dallas, 116-104. The Wizards led Miami 29-19 after the first quarter and never let up.
“We were able to sustain our energy throughout the whole 48 minutes of the game,” Neal said. “Of course it’s a game of runs and they made a run, but just overall I think we were able to sustain it. I think last night in Dallas, aside from a six- or eight-minute stretch in the third quarter where the game kind of got away from us – tonight we didn’t do that. They made a run and made it a game, (but) we just put our hard hats on and continued to fight and we pulled it out.”
Wall and Beal played a huge part in that, of course, combining to shoot 19-of-37 (51.4 percent) from the floor.
“I would say those two are probably the best duo, (the best) 1-2 punch in the NBA as far as the point guard-shooting guard position,” Neal said. “Those guys are dynamic. They can defend the position, they can score the position, they can rebound that position and they have great size at the position. I’ll put my money on those two guys any day of the year.”
It’s been an odd year for the Wizards (9-10), who have already lost three straight, won three straight and lost four straight. They’ve also alternated wins and losses through their first five December games and are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Do the Wizards have the talent to once again make the playoffs and go on a run?
“Yeah, we have enough talent,” Neal said. “We have guys that have been in the wars of playoff games and stuff like that. But I think a lot of people don’t understand when you exchange Paul Pierce for Otto Porter – talent-wise you don’t lose anything, but you lose the experience and the leadership. This is really Otto’s first year of actually getting to play the extended minutes and being a starter and getting to grow into that position.”
Porter, it is worth noting, is only 22 years old. So is Beal. Wall is 25.
“We have a young team,” said Neal, 31. “Our core guys who play all the minutes, they’re pretty young and they still have a lot of years in their careers. So I think that is a part of the learning process. That’s why we’re so up and down – because we have a young team. We come out and look good against Cleveland and then we look lethargic against the Lakers. It’s a growing process.”
The Wizards can get back to .500 this Wednesday with a win over Houston (10-11). Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET.