The Washington Wizards grabbed a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon, cruising to a 98-89 home win in Game 4.
History isn't in Chicago's favor from here on out. The Wizards haven't dropped a seven-game series when up 3-1, nor have the Bulls come back from a 3-1 series deficit, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Wizards win, lead series 3-1. The @WashWizards are 5-0 all-time in best-of-7 series when they lead 3-1. Bulls are 0-8 when trailing 3-1— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2014
Washington held Chicago to 4-of-19 shooting from three-point range and forced 16 turnovers, from which it scored 29 points. It dominated the game on both ends of the floor.
Four different Wizards players scored in double figures, each with at least 15 points, compared to three for the Bulls, which included Joakim Noah with 10.
John Wall finished with a double-double (15 points, 10 assists) in what was the first—and surely not the last—home playoff win of his young career.
CBSSports.com's Zach Harper felt that Wall was having his way with the Bulls defense:
John Wall is moving around the court like when Neo realized he could bend rules in the Matrix.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 27, 2014
The star point guard was having a lot of success kicking the ball out to Bradley Beal, who scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. Beal has been one of Washington's best players in the series, and there's no question he and Wall will wreak havoc on opposing teams for years to come:
Wall to Beal in the corner for a swish. NBA teams should get used to that for the next decade or so— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) April 27, 2014
Trevor Ariza picked a great time to record a career high in points. His 30 points led the team and helped keep the Wizards in front for the entire game. He collected eight rebounds and hit six of 10 three-point attempts, providing the necessary spark to make up for Nene's absence.
As ESPN pointed out, Ariza is no stranger to turning it on in the postseason:
Trevor Ariza helped Kobe win his first title without Shaq. He knows how to step up in the Playoffs. pic.twitter.com/SZQlyaxlw9— ESPN (@espn) April 27, 2014
Marcin Gortat chipped in 17 points, six rebounds and five assists for Washington.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. wasn't coming to the rescue for the Bulls this time around. After his 35-point explosion Friday night, the veteran forward could only manage six points on 3-of-8 shooting. Making matters worse, Dunleavy looked to have injured his elbow in the fourth quarter.
Dunleavy out of game but didn't go to locker room after it looked like his left elbow hyperextended.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 27, 2014
Taj Gibson exploded for 32 points off the bench, leading all scorers, but he received little support. Jimmy Butler managed 16 points, while the starting trio of Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer contributed only 25 points.
CBSSports.com's Matt Moore gave a visual of how much Gibson accounted for the Bulls' offense:
Here's the Bulls without Gibson today: pic.twitter.com/9DmTi6tPDx— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 27, 2014
Much of the talk surrounding the game focused on how the Wizards would cope without Nene, who is averaging 17 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the series. The NBA suspended the Brazilian after he head-butted Butler in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
The fans inside the Verizon Center made it known that they felt Nene should've been on the floor Sunday afternoon:
#FreeNene shirts being shown on the jumbotron.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 27, 2014
Now, entire building shouting FREE NENE. What a scene.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 27, 2014
Gortat said Saturday night that he and his teammates weren't going to cry over spilled milk and would instead look ahead, per the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein.
"Life would be beautiful if we had that third game right now, but we don't," he said. "We have to come back to the style we had in the first two games—more physical, pressure on the ball and we have to run. We have a fast team and we definitely have to use that."
The Wizards took those words to heart, as they didn't show any signs of weakness without Nene, jumping out to a 14-0 lead four minutes into the game.
That set the tone for what was largely a one-sided contest. At no point did the Bulls have a lead.
Chicago closed the gap to four points, 32-28, in the second quarter, but that's as close as the Bulls would get to being on top. Washington went into the half up 55-40, with Ariza's three-pointer at the buzzer really sticking the knife in and sending the Wizards into the locker room on a high.
The lead swelled to 20 points, 82-62, at the end of the third quarter, by which time the Bulls had no way back. They narrowed the deficit to eight points, 91-83, late in the fourth quarter, but too much damage had already been done.
The series moves to Chicago for Game 5, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.
After all the doubt surrounding Washington before Game 4, now all the questions will concern whether the Bulls can respond after getting smacked in the mouth. If their overall performance is any indication, their chances to bounce back don't look great.
Given how thoroughly the Wizards dominated Sunday, you'd have to favor them to take the series. They'll have Nene back for Game 5, and should they falter on the road, they would still be in position to close things out at home in Game 6.