Booker blooms under 7-foot shadow of Nene

Booker blooms under 7-foot shadow of Nene
April 24, 2014, 11:30 am
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(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO -- Without Trevor Booker, the Wizards might not be here as a No. 5 seed or stronger than they were Feb. 23 when they lost Nene to his most serious injury of the season.

They've had a chance to learn how to win without the Brazilian. The Wizards had been 7-34 minus Nene, including 1-6 this season, before that left knee ligament strain. Then they went 12-10 with Booker starting at power forward in his place. 

In taking a 2-0 lead in a first-round series with the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, the Wizards won with both. Nene did the job in overtime when he scored the first six points of the 101-99 win. But it was Booker, who supplanted Marcin Gortat for playing time as the center struggled to contribute, doing the job at both ends. Taj Gibson had been a terror on the offensive glass for Chicago and scored a playoff-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. 

"I just try to play some good defense on him, keep him off the glass. I thought I did a pretty good job on him when I was in the game," said Booker, who came in shortly after Gibson had a putback of his own miss over Gortat for a 73-68 lead late in the third quarter. "I had him frustrated most of the time. I think I did a pretty good job."

Gortat, from his Twitter account, recognized the contribution: "Great win for us!!! Nene was unstoppable again!!!! I have to play better ... Glad TBook got my back!"

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Booker only missed one of his four shots for nine points and had eight rebounds. On the first possession of overtime, Chicago had two offensive rebounds but Booker bothered Gibson's putback attempt and he lost the ball on the way up. The Bulls missed their first seven shots, didn't convert a field goal until 46 seconds remained and had two turnovers.

On another of Gibson's misses, Booker blocked his layup attempt With the Wizards shooting miserably from the foul line, Booker drew a foul on Joakim Noah and calmly sank his team's first two attempts there for a 99-93 lead. 

"People see that we're for real," Booker said. "Coming into the series, most people picked the Bulls to win. We knew that. In this locker room, we knew we could beat those guys."

The Wizards practice Thursday afternoon and will play their first home game of the postseason on Friday at Verizon Center (CSN, 8 p.m. ET). 

Winning two games at home should be easier than the two the Wizards pulled out at United Center in front of 21,000

"If we play like we played tonight," Booker said, "we're good."

If Booker doesn't play up to par, the Wizards can lean on Al Harrington and Drew Gooden who are different players who bring different dynamics to the table. 

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