The Washington Wizards defeated the Chicago Bulls 101-99 in overtime Tuesday night to take a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
After watching the Bulls mount a charge and erase a 17-point deficit thanks in part to a 26-14 scoring edge in the third quarter, the Wizards responded by limiting Chicago to 16 points and outscoring the Bulls by five in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime.
From there, the Wizards went on to outscore the Bulls by two in the extra session after Kirk Hinrich failed to tie the game at the free-throw line with 2.4 seconds remaining.
Following a 49 percent shooting display in Game 1, the Wizards came out and continued to pick apart Chicago's vaunted defense to the tune of 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 39.1 percent shooting from three.
Bulls have lost 6 straight playoff games, 1 shy of team record— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 23, 2014
And truth be told, the Wizards were fortunate to escape with a victory after being outscored 44-22 in the paint and shooting 57.1 percent (16-of-28) from the free-throw line.
Bradley Beal led Washington with a game-high 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting (4-of-7 from three), while Chicago boasted three 20-point scorers, the most notable of which was backup point guard D.J. Augustin.
"Brad made some big plays for us coming down the stretch," Washington head coach Randy Wittman said following the win, according to the Wizards official Twitter account. Specifically, Beal accounted for nine of the team's final 11 points in regulation.
Wall + Beal = 42p, 13r, 9a, 15/35. Augustin 25, Gibson 22, Noah 20. G3 Friday.— Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA) April 23, 2014
Players are graded on a conventional A-F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of their performance.
However, it's important to note that role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their generally smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Chicago
Joakim Noah, Center
After receiving his Defensive Player of the Year hardware prior to tipoff, Joakim Noah started off defending both Marcin Gortat and Nene.
Not tasked with taking a consistent beating from Nene down on the blocks early, Noah had plenty of energy to help energize Chicago's offense, and he did his part over the first six minutes, even if his teammates didn't respond with equal efforts.
Joakim Noah has scored or assisted on the Bulls first 3 field goals.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) April 23, 2014
The buckets continued to drop for Noah at a relatively steady pace (no matter how ugly they may have looked), as he followed up a 15-point effort in Game 1 with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, 12 rebounds, three assists and five turnovers.
Carlos Boozer, Power Forward
Generally, the Bulls like to try and establish Carlos Boozer early and often in an attempt to help generate some easy offense.
In Game 2, that wasn't the case. Typically relied upon to knock down mid-range jumpers, Boozer opened the contest 0-of-3 from the field and recorded a plus/minus rating of minus-14 over his first nine minutes.
With the Bulls lacking necessary energy, Boozer didn't log a single second-quarter minute as Taj Gibson provided much more reliable defense and activity on the glass.
Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer: Similar beard/hairstyles, similar screams after shots, far different levels of effectiveness.— Adam Fromal (@fromal09) April 23, 2014
During the regular season it made more sense to give Boozer the benefit of the doubt, but there's simply no room for error in the postseason.
Considering Gibson's a younger, more energetic and simply better alternative, there's no need to play Boozer if he can't establish any semblance of an early rhythm.
In 21 minutes, Boozer managed five points (2-of-6 shooting), eight rebounds and a turnover.
Taj Gibson, Sixth Man
Not that it's breaking news, but Gibson is clearly the preferred option to Boozer at this stage in the game.
As was the case throughout the regular season, Tom Thibodeau entrusted Gibson with minutes in the game's most crucial moments. And boy did he deliver.
With the Bulls searching for answers in the second quarter, Gibson asserted his dominance and posted a stat line in one period that would have been good enough for a single outing:
Taj Gibson had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in the 2nd quarter.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) April 23, 2014
Building upon those superb first-half figures, Gibson went on to finish with 22 points (7-of-17 shooting), 10 rebounds and a game-high three blocks in 36 minutes off the bench thanks to his relentless ferocity.
Jimmy Butler, Shooting Guard
The aggressive Jimmy Butler that consistently attacked the rim on Sunday didn't return for an encore Tuesday evening, which was unsettling for a Bulls offense that continued to struggle from mid-range.
Preferring to operate on the right wing, four of Butler's first five shots were misses from 15 feet or beyond. With the Bulls desperately lacking the firepower necessary to keep pace with the Wizards' big guns, there was no place for that sort of inefficient approach.
And given that Butler had shot better than 50 percent from the field in three of his last four games dating back to the regular season, the Bulls had to be disappointed by his six-point performance on 2-of-9 shooting that included seven rebounds and two assists.
Offensive production aside, Butler's perimeter defense and intensity in the second half deserve praise, especially when you consider that he played all 53 minutes.
Kirk Hinrich, Point Guard
Believe it or not, the production of Chicago's point guards (and not Noah) helped the Bulls offense find some much-needed rhythm.
A tumultuous first quarter gave way to a prosperous second period, and Kirk Hinrich sought to get his team amped up after a brief scrap with Bradley Beal.
Hinrich and Beal. Uh oh. When the goggles come off for Kirk, it's go-time.— Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA) April 23, 2014
A fourth foul less than three minutes into the third quarter sent Hinrich to the bench and quickly thrust D.J. Augustin back into action, capping the former's potential statistical impact, which amounted to 12 points, four assists, seven rebounds and two steals.
Mike Dunleavy, Small Forward
A listless start to Game 2 had it looking like Mike Dunleavy was headed toward a second straight effort of the underwhelming variety.
Not coincidentally, the moment Chicago's offense turned the proverbial corner, so did Dunleavy. Nine points on 4-of-6 shooting (1-of-3 from three) were hardly game-changing, but the efficiency with which Dunleavy scored the ball and the two steals he racked up reaffirmed that he remains a key complementary cog on both ends of the floor.
Rest of Bench (D.J. Augustin, Really)
After mustering just 12 points over the game's first 10 minutes, the Bulls desperately needed a source of instant offense.
Luckily, the dependable (seriously, it's undeniable at this point) D.J. Augustin came in and stepped up to the plate, scoring eight points in just under three minutes to help cut the deficit to 11 after the opening frame.
Somehow, the productivity didn't end there. Augustin's hot shooting hand helped propel the Bulls on a 9-0 run toward the end of the first half and he finished the game's first 24 minutes with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
He would go on to finish with a playoff career-high 25 points on 10-of-22 shooting (4-of-8 from three), seven dimes, two rebounds and just one turnover
DJ Augustin's 25 points are the 5th most by a Bulls reserve in a Playoff game in the last 25 years.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) April 23, 2014
Aside from Augustin and Gibson, Chicago's bench was practically invisible. Tony Snell and Nazr Mohammed each logged nominal minutes as Thibodeau continued to limit his rotation to nine bodies.
Key Players: Washington
John Wall, Point Guard
There's a reason we've started mentioning John Wall's name in the elite point guard conversation of late: When his jump shot is falling, stopping him is nearly impossible.
Beal and Wall have 17 points in the first 9 minutes tonight. They combined for 29 in Game 1.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) April 23, 2014
Early on, that was absolutely the case. Wall knocked down two of his first three shots from beyond 20 feet and was active defensively.
Those early conversions must have instilled plenty of confidence in the 23-year-old, too, because he helped stem the Bulls' scoring tide by pouring in the first half's final five points, all on jump shots from his beloved right side of the floor.
John Wall had a nice outside shooting touch in the 1st half for the Wizards pic.twitter.com/Goye1PuSAM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 23, 2014
The stream of buckets hit a snag as Chicago asserted its dominance defensively throughout the third and fourth quarters, but it's hard to knock Wall after he showed the ability to shake off those Game 1 jitters.
In 44 minutes, Wall tallied 16 points (6-of-15 shooting, 1-of-5 from three), tied a team-high with seven assists and added five rebounds and two steals.
Bradley Beal, Shooting Guard
Remember when Bradley Beal scored just 13 points over 42 minutes during Game 2? Well, he certainly didn't, because the Wizards' prized wing appeared locked in early, scoring seven of Washington's first 16 points.
And not only did Beal pour in 10 first-quarter points, but he matched his Game 1 output by converting on three of his first six field-goal attempts.
Flashing one of the league's purest shooting strokes consistently down the stretch, Beal racked up 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting (4-of-7 from three) to go with seven rebounds in an encouraging 42 minutes.
Nene, Power Forward
Regardless of who his primary defender has been, Nene continues to display that he's more than capable of scoring from beyond the free-throw line.
After knocking down seven shots outside the paint in Game 1, Nene showed no hesitation rising and firing from both the left and right sides of the floor to start Game 2.
However, the Game 1 standout was largely overshadowed by the productivity of Wall and Beal and was the only Wizards starter to finish the first half with a negative plus/minus rating.
The most encouraging takeaway was the fact that Nene continued to look confident when rising and firing over Joakim Noah, especially after the Wizards big man repeatedly scored over Noah in Game 1.
Factor in his overtime showing, and Nene's grade received a nice late-game boost.
Nene went on to finish with 17 points (8-of-13 shooting), seven rebounds, three assists and a block in 40 minutes
Marcin Gortat, Center
With Washington's perimeter marksmen leading the offensive charge, Gortat's interior stylings were overlooked, and for good reason.
The Polish big went on to finish with a meager seven points and five rebounds while shooting 2-of-9 from the field, including a 1-of-6 start.
On a night when the Bulls' stout interior defense forced the Wizards to become dependent on jump shots, Gortat found offensive consistency hard to come by.
Wizards outscored Bulls 66-38 on jump shots in Game 2— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 23, 2014
Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
Overlooked throughout, Trevor Ariza didn't turn heads with a barrage of perimeter bombs or particularly overwhelming defense, but his unselfishness allowed the Wizards offense to flow comfortably.
Assuming the role of distributor, Ariza dished out seven assists (tying a team-high) while scoring eight points and hauling in eight rebounds (also tying a team-high), as he exploited a favorable matchup against Dunleavy.
A glue guy in every sense of the term, Ariza's playoff experience and calm demeanor continue to pay dividends for the Wizards, and his team-best mark of plus-12 reflected that assessment on Tuesday.
Trevor Booker, Sixth Man
Following a pleasantly surprising Game 1 effort, Trevor Booker saw his first-half minutes limited by three personal fouls in his first eight minutes on the floor.
And despite early foul trouble, Booker was able to make an impact with a relatively tidy performance consisting of nine points (3-of-4 shooting) and eight rebounds.
With the Wizards in need of big bodies who can match the intensity of Noah and Gibson, Booker has emerged as a crucial piece of Washington's upset bid.
Rest of Bench
Aside from Booker, the primary reserve contributions of note come courtesy of Martell Webster and Andre Miller.
With Miller working against the smaller Augustin, the veteran floor general was able to pick his spots and body up his defender and did so successfully to the tune of eight points on 3-of-5 shooting. It sounds a bit cliche after all these years watching him work, but Miller's play (albeit in limited minutes) truly does personify veteran savvy.
Webster provided a similar helping hand, although he did his damage off of spot-up jumpers from the perimeter. In 22 minutes, Webster contributed 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-of-4 from three).
What's Up Next?
Who Wins Game 3?
The series now shifts to the nation's capital for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 will tip off at 8 p.m. ET Friday on TNT while Game 4 is set to get underway at 1 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon on ABC.