Nene disrupts Bulls at both ends as Wizards stun in Game 1

Nene disrupts Bulls at both ends as Wizards stun in Game 1
April 20, 2014, 9:30 pm
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(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO -- Nene's first basket came on a tomahawk dunk which was a sign of things to come. He was able to batter Joakim Noah in the post, get to his spots, score at will by knocking down open jumpers and pick apart the Chicago Bulls' feared defense in the Wizards' first playoff game in six years. The result: A 102-93 comeback victory in Game 1 and taking homecourt advantage in this first-round Eastern Conference best-of-7 series. 

Nene scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the first half when he made 7 of 10 shots, but it was his play in the fourth quarter that made the difference. He stole the ball from Noah at the top of the key and went end-to-end for a reverse layup. After missing his first three free throws in the first half, he made a pair. He threaded the needle with a perfect bounce pass to Andre Miller for a layup. He had another bounce pass in traffic to Marcin Gortat for a layup. His jumper gave the Wizards a 92-88 lead in the waning minutes.

Then he blocked a shot by Kirk Hinrich with the shot clock winding down with less than one minute left to keep it a two-possession game. And down 96-90 with less than 40 seconds left, Taj Gibson tried to attack Nene in the paint and was stripped -- twice -- which disrupted what would be an empty possession. Nene played 35 minutes after playing with a minutes restriction to end the season when he played in the last four games. He had a left knee injury that forced him to miss 21 games before that. 

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In all, the Wizards had six players score in double figures, with 18 from Trevor Ariza, 16 by John Wall, 15 for Gortat, 13 for Beal and Miller's 10. 

The Bulls, who lost two of three in the season series, were energized by their bench led by D.J. Augustin's 16 points even though he only shot 3-for-15. He was able to get to the line and made all 10 free throws. Taj Gibson had 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting, most coming on offensive rebounds and putbacks. 

As usual, Chicago didn't have overwhelming offense. It was a by-committee approach with seven scorers in double figures: Kirk Hinrich had 16 points, Jimmy Butler 15, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy 11 and Noah's 10. The Bulls were held to 42% shooting, 34-for-81. Washington made 36 of 74 for 48.6%. 

The Wizards have beaten the Bulls three times in four meetings, including the regular season. Nene, who has been played on a minutes restriction, logged 35 minutes. It was his most since the All-Star break. 

Turning point: After falling down by 13 points in the third quarter, the Wizards went on a 13-2 run to enter the fourth trailing just 75-72 to change the complexion of the game. 

Key stats: The Wizards only had 10 turnovers and were able to score 40 points in the paint, two more than the Bulls.  

Frozen out: With the exception of Miller who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, the bench was unproductive with Trevor Booker, who returned there after starting 26 games in a row, with just three points and three rebounds in relief. Martell Webster made a three-pointer but blew the chance for a four-point play by missing the free throw. Drew Gooden and Al Harrington didn't score. They only played five minutes combined.

In check: Augustin hurt the Bulls in their April 5 meeting, won 96-78 at Verizon Center. He went fro 25 points in 30 minutes in that game to lead all scorers. While Augustin was able to get his points at the line, he shot just 3-for-15. 

Playoff rookies: Wall and Beal, both of whom shot exactly 50 percent in three regular season games vs. Chicago but in their first postseason game, didn't fare well in that department. They combined to shoot 7-for-25. Beal missed his two three-point looks but led everyone with seven assists. 

From the locker room: "It was the whole team. I don't think it was frontcourt or backcourt. I was really pleased with how we started. First quarter we came out with good intensity. Defensively, we were pretty much in tune and I liked out prace in the first quarter. They came out and beat us to the punch in the second quarter. They handled us defensively. We lost that grit we had in the first quarter. ... I told our guys we have to get back in the fight." -- Wizards coach Randy Wittman

"We played our game. Just like we have two big men in the middle, they have two. ... We need to defend. We need to attack. On the opposite side, it is the same way. Our defense created our tempo. ... We came in here and played hard. We are two similar teams. We did the little things at the end of the game and our tempo was good." -- Nene

"Andre Miller gave them a big lift. Nene also had a good game. We put bodies on him but he just made big shots and especially hit his outside shots." -- Gibson

"Our defense wasn't very good. We got to the penalty early in the first quarter and early in the second quarter. That took away from some of our aggressiveness. 102 points. 48% (shooting), outrebounded (45-39). ... It's hard to win like that. Giving up 35 free throws, we have to correct that. The third quarter we did some good things to get that lead. ... You have to adjust to how the game is being called We can't allow it to take away from our aggressiveness." -- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau 

Up next: The Wizards will practice Monday morning, shoot around Tuesday morning before Game 2 and play later that evening (CSN, 9:30 p.m. ET).