The Wizards won this series. Don't let any Windy City denizens tell you otherwise. The Bulls needed a Larry Bird level shooting performance from Mike Dunleavy and Nene to lose his cool for a Game 3 victory. In other words, Washington essentially pulled off the rare five-game sweep.
All that said, let's look at what went wrong for the favorite Bulls and right for the Wizards...
The Bulls defense legitimately caused opponents stress during the regular season, but not so much for the balanced Wizards. Well, at least when Nene played, though even his absence couldn't slow Washington down in Game 4. Because the Wizards don't have a pure go-to guy or a true dynamic duo, Chicago couldn't design schemes to stop a specific player or two without another scorer or shooter popping up elsewhere. This could pose problems for Indiana, another strong defensive team, in a potential second round matchup.
Noah's non-MVP arc
The rangy center legitimately earned Defensive Player of the Year for his regular season work. Factor in his strong passing and relentless will, Noah absolutely deserved top-5 love on MVP ballots. Yet he rarely dominated games or even stretches of games. Credit Nene's strength and smarts as similar results took place when the Brazilian big man played Chicago during the regular season. Also consider Noah might not have been close to 100 percent physically; he labored moving around during the second half of Game 5. Carlos Boozer's disappearing act certainly didn't help. Neither did Taj Gibson's injury late in Game 5.
Mike Dunleavy and D.J. Augustin just aren't all that
Look, we're talking about quality rotation options. Two players capable of scoring in bunches. But studs to lean on for consistent production, no. No. In the case of Augustin, that became evident late in Game 2 when the Wizards shifted 6-foot-8 Trevor Ariza defensively onto the 6-foot guard. After scoring 25 points in Game 2, Augustin had 25 points in the next three games on 8 of 35 shooting. After Dunleavy dropped 35 points with eight 3's in Game 3, Bradley Beal redeemed himself defensively, holding the veteran forward to six points. Chicago must upgrade its perimeter threats in the offseason, even beyond a Derrick Rose return.
The Bulls advantage throughout the season stemmed from their ability to play hard every quarter of every game. The Wizards weakness throughout the season stemmed from their inability to do just that. Outside of certain defensive lapses in Game 3, Washington matched Chicago's effort throughout. At that point, talent took over and the Wizards simply have more, especially offensively.
Hey, this isn't the Wizards issue, but the Bulls decision to trade their All-star forward for picks, future cap space and financial savings can't be ignored. Four of the five games this series were close. Would Chicago have pulled any of them out with Deng playing 35 minutes over the likes of Boozer, Dunleavy and Tony Snell? Who knows, but you can bet Bulls fans will spend the rest of the offseason wondering just that.
So, who's next...