Things went from bad to good to great to bad to worse tonight as the Bulls fought and scrapped with the Wizards for the vast majority of the game before slipping away in the final minutes to find themselves down early and without home-court advantage in this first round playoff matchup.
The first half went very much according to script until the Bulls’ offensive rebounding prowess pushed them to a six point lead at the break. Things stayed roughly the same through the third quarter and most of the fourth, until the Wizards’ defensive execution wore down the Bulls and they managed to ride the momentum into a fairly huge victory.
The Wizards were led by the dominant Nene (11-17, 24 pts, 8 reb), who routinely beat Joakim Noah to the point of attack and occupied him, opening up everything the Wizards tried to do inside the paint. Rare is the player who can beat Joakim Noah at his own game, but Nene just might be able to do it. Obviously, this will be the key to the series going forward. Trevor Ariza (5-8, 18 pts), John Wall (4-14, 16 pts, 6 ast), Marcin Gortat (6-10, 15 pts, 13 reb), Bradley Beal (3-11, 13 pts), and the ageless Andre Miller (5-7, 10 pts), rounded out the players in double figures for Washington, who secured their first playoff win in 6 years.
The Bulls were led by Kirk Hinrich (7-16, 16 pts) and D.J. Augustin (3-15, 16 pts), who were forced into a series of tough shots as the game wore on, due primarily to Taj and Noah’s inability to make any real progress against the massive size of Nene and Gortat. Jimmy Butler (6-12, 15 pts, 7 reb), Taj Gibson (4-6, 12 pts, 6 reb), Carlos Boozer (5-10, 11 pts), Mike Dunleavy (4-12, 11 pts), and Joakim Noah (4-6, 10 pts, 10 reb) all contributed for the Bulls, who obviously aren’t out of this yet. If one bad loss could kill this team, they would have died in November. See you Tuesday.
Player(s) of the Game: Jimmy Butler.
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