The Washington Wizards won their first postseason series since the 2005 playoffs by topping the Chicago Bulls 75-69 in a tense affair at the United Center.
With neither team setting the nets ablaze with their shooting, the Wizards eked out just enough offense to keep their noses in front and earn a win on the road, their sixth straight triumph away from home dating back to the regular season.
Once again, it was Nene and Bradley Beal who caused the Bulls problems. The Bulls vaunted defense is happy to relinquish the mid-range shot, considered the most inefficient shot available.
However, the mid-range is where Nene thrives. The Brazilian scored 20 points on 10-17 from the floor.
Beal has also been a thorn in the side of Chicago. The second-year player was always going to be a huge part of the Wizards offense and Randy Wittman schemed well to get his young guard great looks in his preferred spots.
With Jimmy Butler paying him close attention all series, the Wizards elected to run Beal off wide screens set by Nene and Marcin Gortat, leaving Butler scrambling from behind and Beal with an open shot in the lane as Noah and Gibson were forced to stay home on the screener.
John Wall led the way in scoring with 24 points as he won his first playoff series in the team’s first postseason appearance since the 2008 season.
The Bulls once again suffered through a simple lack of offensive talent. When D.J. Augustin is your go-to scorer, a 69-point playoff effort is unsurprising.
Add in a hampering knee injury for Joakim Noah and a sickening twisted ankle that sounded more like a break for Taj Gibson and the Bulls looked ready for the season to end, the crowd never truly getting behind the team.
One of the most telling series of plays ocurred deep in the fourth quarter with the Bulls trailing by just three, 72-69 with 2:18 to play.
After a Washington miss, the Wizards grabbed three offensive rebounds on the same possession to run more than a minute off the game clock.
Following that, Carlos Boozer choked up a poor miss on a drive into heavy traffic. The Bulls somehow stayed alive by forcing a shot-clock violation, the final writhing of a dying animal.
Jimmy Butler missed a layup after a beautifully designed and perfectly executed out of bounds play, allowing the Wizards to regain possession with less than 20 seconds to play.
Andre Miller then missed both free throws but again the Wizards stole the offensive rebound. Beal was fouled and split two of his own from the line before Nene again came up big with the rebound, ending the game as the clock ticked to double zeroes.
Joakim Noah was in obvious pain throughout much of the second half and later disclosed he had been dealing with a knee injury. Taj Gibson left the game in the fourth quarter after landing awkwardly and did not return. Carlos Boozer checked in for him and has possibly played his last game as a Bull.
The Bulls shot just 33.3 percent from the field. Augustin hit on one of his ten shot attempts. Kirk Hinrich’s 6-11 clip made him the only Bull to break 50 percent.
The Wizards now await the winner of the Atlanta-Indiana series as they moved to the second round for the second time in three decades.
John Wall: 24 points, 7-19 FGS, 7 rebounds
Nene: 20 points, 10-17 FGS, 7 rebounds
Bradley Beal: 17 points, 6-13 FGS, 5 rebounds
Kirk Hinrich: 16 points, 6-11 FGS, 4 assists
Jimmy Butler: 16 points, 6-15 FGS, 4 rebounds
Joakim Noah: 6 points, 3-8 FGS, 18 rebounds
Washington Wizards win series 4-1