With the game slipping out of their grasp, the Washington Wizards employed a tried-and-true tactic to try to will their way back into Friday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets — Hack-A-Reggie.
Even when he didn’t have the ball, the in-the-bonus Wizards intentionally fouled Reggie Evans — shooting 50.4% from the free throw line on the season — five times in 62 seconds, hoping to trade off enough missed free throws to cut into a fifteen-point lead.
On his first four trips to the line, Evans shot just 1-8, giving the Wizards a sliver of hope. But with arguably the loudest ovation Barclays Center has seen yet behind him — one that got louder with each trip he took to the line — Evans hit his final two free throws, giving the Nets a 16-point lead with 4:04 left and sending the arena into an utter frenzy.
In a game completely overshadowed by Deron Williams’ record-setting performance — nine three-pointers in one half, eleven total, and nearly four times as many points as any of his teammates — Evans arguably had the best game of his career. While fans have called for Evans’s removal from the starting lineup, and there are sound, numbers-based ways to make that case, Evans responded, scoring 11 points on a variety of post moves and layups and finishing with a career-high 24 rebounds in 32 minutes.
“It was exciting,” a fatigued, accomplished Evans said after the game about the chants. “It was exciting. I was happy. I was just mad on the inside but I was enjoying the moment, whether I missed it or made it. I was just excited.”
(So yes, he was excited.)
The Nets didn’t get expected scoring from All-Star center Brook Lopez, nor did guard Joe Johnson put up his expected production. But when the Nets needed a basket, it was Evans who gave them a shocking boost.
“Twice in the game, we were in a drought, dying for a basket, and two times (Evans) gave us a basket,” Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo commented after the game. “I didn’t think he was good, I thought he was exceptional.”