The Chicago Bulls overcame the Washington Wizards in what was the regular- season finale for both teams. When it was all said and done, the scoreboard signaled that the hometown Bulls had triumphed 95-92.
The Bulls started fast, as they ended the first quarter with a 31-15 lead. After a one-sided opening frame, the rhythm of the game changed in the second quarter, with the Wizards ripping off a 19-4 run.
The second half featured runs by both teams, with the Wizards bench providing a significant spark. Most notably, A.J Price and Chris Singleton combined to compile 37 points, as they led a couple of runs that cut into the Bulls' leads that Chicago's starters built.
The Wizards fought hard in their last game before starting their summer vacation, as they nearly pulled off the upset. The absences of Emeka Okafor, Nene, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza didn't help their cause, but no one should be able to suggest that the Wizards mailed it in.
Ultimately, the Wiz just didn't have the firepower to pull off the road victory against the stingy Bulls' defense.
This game provided the Bulls one final opportunity to polish their game on both ends of the court before the playoffs begin. While it was concerning to see Chicago cough up a double-digit, first-half lead, there are still plenty of positives to take away from this game.
Let's take a look at how the Bulls graded out in Wednesday night's matchup.
Kirk Hinrich performed admirably in place of the injured Derrick Rose and has proven to be one of the Chicago Bulls' most valuable players this season. In the 22 games Hinrich missed, the Bulls posted a record of 7-15.
Whether or not Hinrich will be able to lead the Bulls on a postseason run is unknown, but he was vital in getting the team into the tournament in the first place.
Against the Washington Wizards, Hinrich was an efficient scorer and took care of the ball well. Basically, it was a classic Kirk Hinrich game against a subpar team.
While running the fast break in the first quarter, Hinrich converted on a fantastic layup while being fouled by John Wall. The play turned out to be one of the game's most exciting sequences, as Hinrich displayed great body control and touch.
One of the themes throughout the game was the savvy Hinrich consistently pump faking to get Wall out of position. The barrage of fakes kept Wall off balance all night and opened up a fair share of promising shots for Hinrich.
It's easy to forget that Hinrich was one of Wall's mentors, as the former played the second half of the 2010-11 season as a member of the Wizards. Hinrich's familiarity with Wall's game was obvious at points, especially in isolation situations.
When it was all said and done against the Wizards, Hinrich had compiled 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while dishing out five assists and grabbing two rebounds.
Hinrich also played solid defense on Wall, as the latter only converted on eight of his 21 field-goal attempts.
Final Grade: A-
Jimmy Butler started at shooting guard for the second time in three games, as Tom Thibodeau decided to bring Marco Belinelli off the bench. While Butler's NBA future isn't likely to include him playing much 2-guard, his versatility enables him to do so when needed.
Due to his size, Butler was given the ball in the post on numerous occasions. Simply put, there aren't many shooting guards in the league who can play adequate post defense against a 6'7" wing player.
While tonight's game was of little significance for the Bulls, you never would have known that by watching Butler who hustled for every loose ball and ran the court without abandon on fast breaks.
One of Butler's most endearing qualities is his hard play, as the Marquette product leaves everything he has on the floor on a nightly basis. It's that type of effort that fans love to see, which is a key reason why the fans in Chicago have embraced him so quickly.
Butler continues to develop into a solid wing player and is getting the opportunity to learn under wingman extraordinaire Luol Deng. A tough defender, Butler fits into Thibodeau's system, which emphasizes team defense and non-stop effort.
Few players in the league have the potential to fill up the stat sheet like Butler, who has the length, skill and size to contribute in every facet of the game.
Whether it's playing transition defense or crashing the offensive glass, there isn't anything about any aspect of Butler's game that is abjectly bad.
Butler finished the game with 13 points, six boards, three assists, two steals and one block in 42 minutes of action.
Final Grade: B+
Luol Deng has been an absolute warrior for the Chicago Bulls in Derrick Rose's absence, as the Duke product averaged 38.9 minutes per contest over the course of the season.
Tom Thibodeau decided to give Deng more rest against the Washington Wizards than normal in hopes that he will be able to slightly recharge his batteries. Deng sat out the majority of the fourth quarter, which was somewhat surprising, considering Thibodeau's history and how competitive the game was.
When Deng did re-enter the game with 2:20 left, he quickly knocked down a three-pointer to give the Bulls a seven-point lead. As it turned out, Chicago never surrendered the lead on the way to their 45th win of the season.
In the first half, Deng played more of a support role. He dished out four assists and grabbed three rebounds while only scoring two points.
At times it appeared as if Deng was willing to take a backseat , as he didn't push the envelope offensively. There isn't anything wrong with that, but the Bulls will need Deng to be more aggressive once the playoffs commence.
Deng is the perfect representation of Tom Thibodeau's style, as getting the job done is all that matters to Deng. If that means playing good defense and being opportunistic, that's exactly what he is willing to do if it means helping the Bulls win basketball games.
In the regular-season finale, Deng compiled five points, five assists and five rebounds in just 27 minutes of playtime.
Final Grade: C
From the onset, it was clear that Tom Thibodeau wanted the Chicago Bulls to run their offense in an inside-out manner. This concept was evident in the first quarter, as Carlos Boozer took three shots in the first few minutes.
Boozer took advantage of the absences of Emeka Okafor and Nene, as the Duke product was clearly the best big man on the floor all evening.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows for Boozer, though, as he was in foul trouble for the majority of the contest.
Early on in the second half, Boozer picked up his fourth foul when second-year forward Chris Singleton drove his way into the lane. In most situations, Thibodeau would have called Boozer to the bench. However, the health concerns surrounding Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson dictated that Boozer needed to play while in foul trouble.
Boozer compiled a double-double midway through the third quarter, which hints at just how dominant he was in the paint.
In terms of jump shooting, Boozer is still one of the NBA's most talented big men. Since the Bulls struggle to create offense in half-court sets, Boozer's ability to space the floor at the power forward position will be crucial once the postseason commences.
In the fourth quarter, Boozer created offense by driving to the hoop, which made it even harder for the Wizards to defend him down the stretch.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, Boozer had scored 19 points and hauled in 15 rebounds in what was a dominating performance by the 10-year veteran.
Final Grade: A
Nazr Mohammed got the starting nod at center for two reasons.
First, the Chicago Bulls are still limiting Joakim Noah's minutes. The University of Florida product is still working his way back into game shape after suffering with right foot plantar fasciitis, an injury that forced him to miss 12 of the team's previous 13 contests before the regular-season finale.
Second, Mohammed will be asked to contribute in the postseason, as Brooklyn Nets employ a strong frontcourt.
Against the Washington Wizards, Mohammad consistently found open looks near the rim and did well to convert once the ball was in his possession down low.
Mohammed started the game quick, converting on three of his first four field goals while also grabbing five rebounds before the timeout.
The 14-year veteran didn't slow down at all in the first half, as he finished the first two quarters with a game-high plus/minus differential of plus-21.
While Mohammed turned in a solid performance, it must be noted that he did so against a Washington Wizards team that was without their typical starting big men combination.
When it was all said and done, Mohammed amassed 17 points and seven rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the floor.
Final Grade: A
Nate Robinson led all of the Chicago Bulls' reserves in minutes, as he played 23 minutes. In that time, the diminutive point guard scored nine points and dished out four assists.
Upon entering the game tonight, Robinson became one of only two Bulls players to appear in all 82 regular-season games (with Jimmy Butler being the other).
Against the Washington Wizards, Robinson posted a team-low plus/minus differential of minus-15. All of the blame should not be placed on Robinson for posting a negative score, as none of Chicago's reserves posted a positive plus/minus.
For whatever reason, the University of Washington product struggled from the floor against the Wizards. By game's end, Robinson had converted on just three of his eight shot attempts, with all of his buckets coming from long-range.
Robinson has the potential to steal a playoff game for the Bulls if his shots are falling. That has to scare the Brooklyn Nets at least a little bit, as the series figures to be competitive and hard-fought.
Final Grade: C
The Chicago Bulls' players who came off the bench today was a bit unorthodox, as Joakim Noah played 14 minutes as a reserve. After missing 12 of the team's previous 13 games, Noah played 14 minutes against the Washington Wizards.
Unfortunately for both Noah and Chicago, he failed to score and only contributed one rebound and assist. Considering how obvious it was that Noah's movement was limited, it's hard to imagine him performing at his peak level when the playoffs start.
Taj Gibson found a bit more success in his return to the court, scoring eight points in 21 minutes while also hauling in four boards. Unlike Noah, Gibson looked to be somewhat close to full strength and played solid defense.
In terms of reserve guards, Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton combined to score just six points in 26 minutes. Outside of a couple of impressive Belinelli layups, the Bulls got very little production out of the guards who came off the bench.
Hopefully, this isn't a sign of things to come for Chicago's second unit, as they combined to shoot a paltry 34.6 percent from the floor while posting a horrendous plus/minus differential of minus-59.
Final Grade: C-