Nene scored 24 points, Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and the Washington Wizards rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat the Chicago Bulls, 102-93, Sunday night at the United Center, taking Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
The Wizards got off to a good start in this game, and early on in the second quarter, they led 30-26. However, the Bulls ended up outscoring them by eight in the period, and at halftime, Chicago took a 54-48 edge into the locker room.
The Bulls then opened up the third quarter with a 10-3 run, pushing their lead to 64-51. From that point on, Washington scratched and clawed its way back into the contest behind a very strong performance from its frontcourt tandem of Nene and Gortat.
Wizards head coach Randy Wittman was obviously happy with his team's gutsy performance.
The Wizards outscored Chicago 30-18 in the fourth quarter to grab the win.
Washington shot 48.6 percent from the floor and held the Bulls to 42 percent shooting. It also out-rebounded Chicago, 45-39.
Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin both scored 16 points to lead the Bulls.
Game 2 is Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Key Player Grades
John Wall, Point Guard
John Wall was shaky in this one.
The lightning-quick guard went only 4-of-14 from the floor, looking a bit out of control at times. Perhaps we can chalk it up to playoff jitters.
Fortunately for Wall, he was able to get to the free-throw line, where he went 8-of-10.
The Kentucky product scored 16 points and dished out six assists in 35 minutes. He also grabbed six rebounds.
My guess is that Wall will be better in Game 2.
Nene, Power Forward
For a guy who just came back from injury a couple of weeks ago, Nene looked awfully conditioned and energetic in this game.
The big Brazilian was outstanding Sunday night, registering 24 points and eight rebounds. He knocked down jumpers, bullied defenders in the post and was very vocal throughout the contest, barking defensive commands and encouraging his teammates.
Nene shot 11-of-17 and also made numerous incredible passes to cutters in the paint, playing the role of Joakim Noah for the Wizards.
Nene was clearly Washington's best player on the floor throughout the game.
The Wizards are going to need much more of that in this series.
Marcin Gortat, Center
Like his frontcourt mate Nene, Marcin Gortat had a huge impact on this game.
The Polish Hammer posted 15 points and 13 boards, coming up with a huge putback bucket off an offensive rebound to put the Wizards up by six with 34.2 seconds remaining. Five of Gortat's boards came on the offensive glass.
Gortat's defense was also outstanding, with him and Nene building a wall in the paint and doing a great job of hedging screens out on the perimeter.
If the Bulls can't contain Nene and Gortat, they are going to be in deep trouble.
Gortat shot 6-of-10 from the field.
Bradley Beal, Shooting Guard
Similar to Wall, Bradley Beal looked like he was a bit nervous in his first playoff game.
The second-year guard out of Florida made only three of his 11 shots, misfiring on both of his three-point attempts. He went 7-of-7 at the charity stripe, though, and thanks to that, he was able to score 13 points.
The impressive part about Beal's performance, though, was the way he distributed the basketball. The sharpshooter handed out seven assists in a team-high 42 minutes.
If that shot starts dropping, look out.
Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
Trevor Ariza has championship experience, and it showed in this game.
With the Wizards down 13 in the third period, Ariza rallied the troops, hitting a couple of big triples and making a nice layup to help get his team back in the game. He screamed loudly heading into the huddle during a timeout, doing all he could to wake his mates up and get their heads right.
Ariza was spectacular all-around, posting 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He went 5-of-8 from the floor, connecting on three of his five three-point attempts.
Big game from the 2009 NBA champion.
Andre Miller, Sixth Man
Andre Miller was absolutely sensational for the Wizards in the second half. As a matter of fact, Miller was so good in the fourth quarter that head coach Randy Wittman did not even send Wall back onto the floor until there were four-and-a-half minutes left.
The crafty veteran scored 10 points off 5-of-7 shooting, eight of those points coming in the final period. He used his size to take advantage of D.J. Augustin inside and made great cuts to the basket to free himself up for easy deuces.
All of that in only 13 minutes.
Washington's bench was certainly nothing to write home about in this game.
Outside of Miller, the reserves combined to score a measly six points, with Trevor Booker and Martell Webster both having three apiece.
Booker at least had six rebounds, so he did other things to make up for his lack of offense.
Webster, however, looked very uncomfortable. He took three shots, all of them coming from downtown. He hit one. Of his other two, one was an open look that he just flat out missed and another was an awkward-looking, difficult shot that he probably shouldn't have taken.
Drew Gooden saw three minutes, and Al Harrington played two, but neither did anything.
Joakim Noah, Center
Noah put up decent numbers in this game, posting a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and handing out four assists, but Nene and Gortat took a little bit of the shine off him up front.
Because of the two Washington bigs, Noah wasn't able to make the type of imprint on the game that he normally does. He actually was outmuscled by Nene numerous times throughout the contest, and he even took a couple of wild, uncharacteristic shots in the second half.
Noah's defensive impact was also limited, as he failed to register a block or a steal.
Noah must play better if the Bulls want to have any chance of winning this series.
Carlos Boozer, Power Forward
Carlos Boozer was very productive in his usual limited action.
In 24 minutes, the big man posted 11 points and nine rebounds, shooting 5-of-10 from the floor. He was very active throughout, and he did not register a turnover.
In what has become a regular occurrence, Boozer did not play the fourth quarter, but he did more than enough in the time that he actually saw.
Jimmy Butler, Shooting Guard
Jimmy Butler put forth a solid performance in the loss, and he may have been the most active Bull on the floor Sunday night.
The Marquette product tallied 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals. He shot 6-of-12 from the floor and was flying all over the place defensively, getting his hands in the passing lanes and being a disruptive presence out on the perimeter.
However, Butler missed four free throws, and those misses came back to bite Chicago late in the game.
Butler played a game-high 44 minutes.
Kirk Hinrich, Point Guard
Once in a while, Kirk Hinrich will be a reliable scorer for the Bulls.
Game 1 of the playoffs was one of those nights.
Hinrich scored 16 points off 7-of-16 shooting, knocking down a pair of triples. Several of his shots squelched Washington runs in the third quarter, particularly in give-and-go sets.
Hinrich only dished out two assists, but in this one, he took on more of a scorer's role than anything else.
Too bad it had to end in a loss for him.
Mike Dunleavy, Small Forward
Mike Dunleavy got off to a very poor start in this one, going 0-of-5 from the floor in the first half and not being able to find any sort of rhythm whatsoever.
In the third quarter, though, Dunleavy gave Chicago the spark it needed, scoring 11 points and knocking down three triples. He scored the first eight points of the quarter for the Bulls and helped them extend their lead to 13 early on in the period.
Dunleavy finished with 11 points off 4-of-12 shooting, making three of his eight long-range tries.
Taj Gibson, Sixth Man
Outside of a brilliant second quarter where he scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds, Taj Gibson was contained for most of the night.
Of course, we can't just ignore what he did in the second period, as he helped get Chicago into the lead with great activity on both ends of the floor, including a monster dunk off an offensive board, which really got the crowd going.
Still, it would have been nice if Gibson showed up in the other three quarters, as he went for only two points and one rebound for the rest of the game.
Gibson was, however, the Bulls' best rim-protector, blocking three shots.
All things considered, if Tom Thibodeau is going to continue to sit a reliable low-post threat in Boozer for fourth quarters, Gibson has to be bigger offensively down the stretch.
D.J. Augustin had a big first half, scoring 12 points and making an absolute living at the free-throw line. He was only 2-of-9 from the floor in that span (he finished 3-of-15), but he went 8-of-8 from the charity stripe, helping the Bulls take control of the game at that point. Augustin ended up with 16 points, making all 10 of his free throws.
His effectiveness at the free-throw line does not excuse his ineptitude from the field, though, as those 12 missed shots stung. He also misfired on all four of his long-distance tries.
Tony Snell got some burn as well, but he made virtually no impact. The rookie scored two points off 1-of-4 shooting, missing both of his three-point attempts in 12 minutes.
Outside of Nazr Mohammed seeing a brief two minutes of action, that was it for Chicago's pine.
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