The Wizards entered the fourth down three, and they played some of their best defensive basketball of the season to grab game one. The Wizards held the Bulls to just six points in the final 5:30, at one point forcing the Bulls into a 1/10 shooting stretch. During that final 5:30, Washington outscored Chicago 16-6. While Washington started the game really struggling at the free throw line, the fourth quarter was a whole different story, as the Wizards made all 12 of their free throws in the final frame.
The Wizards went down big in the third quarter (as many as 13) but they fought back. They closed that gap to just three by the start of the fourth, and was probably the most crucial stretch of the game. It easily could've gotten away from them, especially with how electric the United Center was, but the Wizards simply didn't let it happen.
The Wizards were better offensively than Chicago, shooting 48.6% compared to Chicago's 42%. They also won the battle of the boards, especially controlling the glass in the second half, finished with a 45-39 edge. Late in the game they really limited Gibson and Noah's effectiveness on the offensive glass where they saw so much success early. Finally, while we knew Chicago would want to slow the game down, the Wizards completely shut down the Bulls transition game, outscoring them on the break 9-2.
Nene was the man all night for Washington in this one, finishing with a game-high 24 points on 11/17 shooting, eight boards, three assists and two steals. The Bulls elected to give him that midrange jumper from the elbow for most of the night and he made them pay. He was also fantastic on Noah, helping hold the MVP candidate to 10 points, 10 boards and four assists. Ariza was the driving force behind the third quarter comeback, with eight points including a pair of threes in the frame, and he finished with 18 points on 5/8 shooting and added seven boards. Gortat's double-doubles were not just a thing of the regular season as he had 15 points and 13 boards. Wall and Beal combined to shoot just 7/25, but were 15/17 from the free throw line, helped hold the Bull's leading scorer Augustin to 3/15 shooting and dished out 13 assists against just three turnovers.
Andre Miller was the final Wizards to score in double figures and his performance cannot be overlooked. He hit some huge shots in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points on 5/7 shooting.
Seven Bulls scored in double figures, with Hinrich and Augustin leading the way with 16 each in the loss.
It's absolutely massive to go on the road and get game one, but it's just one win out of four. Game two is Tuesday night at 9:30 in Chicago. - Jacob Raim
Third Quarter Update The Wizards went down by double digits but made a big run to make it a 75-72 game at the end of third quarter. Washington went down by 12 but answered with a 13-2 run, with just about everybody contributing. They had the opportunity to end the third ahead but managed just one bucket over the final 3:30 of the quarter to head to the fourth down by three. During the Wizards run, the game took on a break neck pace which is much to Washington's liking. Thibodeau was forced to call a timeout in the middle of the run and clearly was preaching to his squad to have them slow things down. Nene still leads the team with 18 points now, but four guys are now in double figures as Ariza, Wall and Beal are also there. The Wizards are at 50% from the field for the game while the Bulls are at 42.9%, but the Bulls work on the offensive glass has been a big difference. Five Bulls are in double figures led by Hinrich with 14. - Jacob Raim
Halftime Update The end of the first half did not go as planned for Washington as Chicago closed the half on a 9-4 run and they go into the break up six, 54-48. The Bulls bench stepped up in a big way with Gibson and Augustin particularly changing the momentum of the game. They combined for 20 points as Chicago's bench outscored Washington's, 22-6. Gibson did his damage on the offensive glass, getting three offensive boards which directly led to his three buckets. Augustin did his damage at the stripe, going 8/8. The Wizards got to the free throw line, they just struggled to convert, shooting just 12/21. The Wizards were better than the Bulls from the field, shooting 47.2% compared to 44.2% for Chicago. Nene was the man in the first half, scoring 14 on 7/10 shooting and adding five boards. Wall was the other Wizard in double figures with 12 points, four assists and three boards. Both teams protected the ball, with the Wizards committing five turnovers and the Bulls just three.
In the second half, the Wizards really need to make their free throws and control the glass on their own end, limiting the Bulls second chance opportunities. The Bulls struggle to score but are great on the glass and are at their best when getting easy putbacks by Noah, Gibson and company. Continuing to get Nene and Gortat touches inside is also a key, as the Bulls have struggled to contain the Wizards physical front court. Finally Wall saw a ton of success attacking the hoop at the end of the half, either getting buckets or getting fouled. Second half coming up next. - Jacob Raim
First Quarter Update The Wizards and particularly Nene, showed no signs of being afraid of the moment as they came out as the more aggressive team in the first quarter of game one. Nene opened the game with a thunderous slam and didn't stop there, going 4/6 fom the field for eight points as the Wizards 24-22. Washington did a particularly good job of getting to the free throw line as they got there 10 times against a Chicago team that only allows teams 20 free throws all game. All five Wizards' starters scored in the first quarter with Wall having five, Beal four, Ariza three and Gortat two. The pace of the game early is probably somewhere in between what each team wants, not quite the up and down pace the Wizards would like or a defensive slog like the Bulls would prefer. The Wizards shot 45% from the field and surprisingly did not attempt a three ball while the Bulls shot 43.5% and were 1/3 from long distance. - Jacob Raim
Hello again, from high above United Center where we are minutes away from #WizBulls.
If you missed the announcement, Nene will start tonight for the Wizards. He has not started since being injured back on February 23rd, but did return for the final five games of the season where he came off the bench. Trevor Booker will move back to the bench.
It will be interesting to see how Randy Wittman will use his bench now with Booker, Al Harrington, and Drew Gooden all available to come in and spell Nene.
We'll be live chatting about the game on WashingtonWizards.com so come join the conversation as we get ready for the Wizards playoff run to begin!
Enough has been said already about the series, so check out some of the pregame scene below and buckle up for Game 1!
Hello from Chicago!
Checking in from the hotel after we just returned from morning shootaorund. There was a sense of calmness and focus from the team as they got off the bus and entered the gym.
Team arriving for morning shoot around #WizBulls https://t.co/rwQtuVu55oYou can tell the feeling is a little bit different than a normal game, but they won't let their nerves, anticipation, or excitement show on the outside.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) April 20, 2014
It's business as usual, as John Wall told our Casey Phillips before starting up this morning:
He can play it cool on the outside, but anyone who knows John knows that this game tonight will have special meaning to him. He's been waiting a long time for this opportunity and tonight he'll get to play on national TV for the first time since his rookie year as he makes his playoff debut.
One of the biggest questions for the Wiz heading into the playoffs is how Wall and his backcourt mate Bradley Beal will perform in their first ever playoff series. They are the team's leading scorers and will be crucial in this series, so it goes without saying that the Wiz will need them to come up big to try and steal a win tonight in Chicago.
Casey also spoke with Nene in today's Courtside Report who gave some insight into what to expect from the great battle of big men in this series:
We have not yet confirmed if Nene will start and he did say he'll still have some sort of minutes restriction, but when he's out there he could be the difference maker and could be the reason the Wizards win the series. He and Marcin Gortat will have their hands full with an athletic front court in Chicago, led by the MVP candidate Joakim Noah. One guy to watch off the Bulls' bench is Taj Gibson, who is as good a 6th man as there is in the league and could be their x-factor.
We've got plenty more analysis in the #WizBulls Series Preview, which you can find here on Monumental Network.
We'll check back in from United Center later today with some more pregame thoughts as we lead up to the 7pm tip of Game 1 of #WizBulls!
Morning Stretch at shootaround