Washington Wizards center Nene has been one of the key players in the team's first-round series with the No. 4-seeded Chicago Bulls. In the Wizards' series-opening wins, he won a huge matchup with Joakim Noah to propel his team to a 2-0 lead with the series heading back to D.C. Then, after being ejected from Game 3 for head-butting and grabbing forward Jimmy Butler, the Wizards felt Nene's absence on their way to a 100-97 loss.
On Saturday afternoon, the Wizards — up 2-1 — learned that Nene's incident with Butler will also cause him to miss another game. As announced in an NBA press release, he has been suspended for Sunday's Game 4:
Washington Wizard’s forward-center Nene has been suspended one game without pay for head-butting and grabbing guard-forward Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls around the neck with both hands and attempting to throw him down, it was announced today by Rod Thorn, President, Basketball Operations.
The incident, in which Nene received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game, occurred with 8:28 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 100-97 loss to the visiting Chicago Bulls last night at Verizon Center. Nene will serve his suspension tomorrow when the Wizards host Chicago.
This is a potential turning point in a series that once looked like a coming-out party for the Wizards. While the backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal remains the center of the team's identity, Nene's play against Noah — a draw, at least — was the biggest X-factor in their two wins.
The good news is the Wizards are used to playing without their center — he missed six weeks late in the season with a sprained knee ligament and didn't return to the starting lineup until Game 1. On the other hand, the Wizards were only 14-15 without him this season, so it's not as if they were world-beaters with the Brazilian in street clothes. Clearly, the Wizards find themselves in a more precarious position than they were on Friday morning.
We'll find out how much this suspension matters in Game 4. It's scheduled for 1 p.m. ET Sunday.
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