Washington Wizards 75, Chicago Bulls 69—Washington wins series, 4-1
The Wizards began Game 5 much the same way they did the first four games of the series, by jumping out to eight-point lead in the first quarter. Power forward Nene Hilario, who was suspended for Game 4, led Washington with six points during the opening frame.
Chicago pulled even in the second quarter, as sixth man Taj Gibson added six points to his typical sterling frontcourt defense.
Throughout this series, the Bulls have repeatedly shot themselves in the collective foot by digging a big early hole. While they have usually been able to climb back into the game, they were simply not good enough offensively to keep up that kind of pace.
The same thing doomed them in Game 5, as the Bulls went back down by nine in the third quarter. Chicago simply could not score, as the Wizards held the squad to 11 points in the period.
Even when the Bulls made it to the rim, they simply couldn't convert. Through the first three quarters, Chicago missed a mind-boggling 15 layups.
After shooting guard Jimmy Butler missed badly on a desperation three-pointer, B/R's Andrew Bailey mused: "Certainly the Bulls offense can get looks than Jimmy Butler jacking threes from five feet beyond the line. Or maybe they can't."
The Bulls rallied after losing Gibson to an ankle injury, cutting the deficit to three. But the Wizards bullied Chicago on the offensive glass in the waning minutes, while the Bulls continued to miss bunnies at the rim. Butler botched one final layup in the closing seconds, allowing the Wizards to hold on for the win.
Per TNT analyst Marv Albert, the 75 points Washington scored on Tuesday was its lowest total ever in a playoff victory.
Joakim Noah, Bulls: 6 PTS, 18 REB, 7 AST
Jimmy Butler, Bulls: 16 PTS, 4 REB
Nene, Wizards: 20 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
John Wall, Wizards: 24 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
Bradley Beal, Wizards: 17 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST
After the loss, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau praised his players, per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson: "I’m proud of the team. They gave us everything they had. There was nothing left. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for."
But this moment isn't really about the Bulls; it's about the Washington Wizards and their long-suffering fans. For just the second time in three decades, the Wizards will be playing in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Washington will face the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series. Atlanta currently leads 3-2, and Game 6 will take place on its home court on Thursday night. Still, it would be foolish to count out the top-seeded Pacers.
Though Indiana has been struggling of late, the Wizards might be better off facing Atlanta, whom they beat three of four times in the regular season. The Pacers won their regular-season series against Washington, 2-1.