CHICAGO -- Back from serving a one-game suspension, Nene sank the Chicago Bulls with a steady diet of mid-range jump shots over Joakim Noah, the Defensive Player of the Year, and then battered them on the boards to clinch in Game 5 for the Wizards on Tuesday at United Center.
It was the ugliest, lowest-scoring game of the series and the Wizards advanced to the second round for the first time since 2005 where they'll play the Atlanta Hawks or Indiana Pacers. The Hawks lead that series 3-2. They'v won all four meetings, including one in the regular season, in Chicago. It also was the first 4-1 series win in franchise history.
Nene played the two-man game masterfully with Bradley Beal, who drew double coverage which left the Brazilian wide open for the return pass. When the Noah was on him one-on-one, Nene knocked down so many face-up shots that midway through the third quarter Noah began shaking his head. When the Bulls opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run, Nene split a double-team with a pinpoint pass to Trevor Booker for a layup to stop the momentum.
In the end, it was too much of the Brazilian who could be seen mugging at the Bulls with every made shot. Nene finished with 20 points on 10-for-17 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists. With the score 72-69 with 16 seconds left, Andre Miller missed two free throws but Nene tapped the ball out. Beal went to the foul line and made the first foul shot, but Nene tipped out his miss for another possession. John Wall went to the line and made both.
Wall led all scorers with 24 points, had seven rebounds and four assists. Trevor Ariza, who scored 30 points in Game 4, only had six points and nine rebounds but provided some lockdown defense as Chicago only made 25 of 75 shots, or 33.3%. Beal had 17 points, and even though Marcin Gortat just scored two his 13 rebounds were valuable. Four were offensive, with three coming in the fourth quarter.
Chicago erased a 12-point deficit in the first half to tie it at 41. They then cut the deficit to 65-62 on a three-point shot from Kirk Hinrich in the third but Wall quickly answered with a three. The Bulls simply couldn't finish, or rebound when it counted most.
Turning point: The Wizards broke a 41-41 tie at halftime by forcing the Bulls into 4-for-16 shooting in the third quarter and five turnovers for a 61-52 margin entering the fourth. Nene made 4 of 6 shots.
Key stats: Chicago was outrebounded 49-43, outscored in the paint 26-18 and dominated in the open court with a 13-2 disadvantage in fast-break points.
Fast starts: The Wizards led after the first quarter in every game of this series, and they went up 23-15 in this one behind six points from Nene and Wall.
Mismatch: They were able to keep the Bulls' lethal two-man bench of Taj Gibson and D.J. Augustin had their lowest output of the series by combining for 16 points on 4-for-20 shooting. That was still more than enough to produce more than the Wizards' bench of Trevor Booker, Martell Webster and Andre Miller. Booker scored six for their only points but had seven rebounds.
Replacement: Carlos Boozer played for the first time in the fourth quarter of this series because Gibson went down with 7:51 left. Gibson had to get carried off the court and didn't return. Boozer scored just two of his 10 points in the fourth and was a non-factor on the boards. He had nine rebounds for the game but just one in the fourth.
From the locker room: "When we started the series we knew no matter what the team did on offense, it was defense that was going to win. We played great defense and that is why we came out with the win. In Game 3 we did not play great defense and that is why we got the loss." -- Wall
"It looks like the last two days I prepared well. My teammates picked me up to today. All this day was about trust and hard work. This was enjoyable for the fans, especially in D.C. ... It was a battle. It was a good series. They play really physical but we prepared ourselves. We played physical and we played with intensity." -- Nene
"Jo (Noah) was laboring, but I couldn't sub for him in the second half. Taj going down was a big hit for us. It's what we have dealt with all year. I am proud of the team. I thought they gave us everything they had. There was nothing left. That is all you can ask for as a coach. ... I thought Randy (Wittman) did a great job. They have a great young team." -- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau
Around the bend: The Wizards returned to D.C. after the game and likely won't practice. They'll have treatment Wednesday though may have media availability.