Best and worst moments from Washington’s 75-69 series-clinching win over the Bulls in Chicago.
Best Drought-Ender: The Wizards have now advanced past the first round of the playoffs three times since the 1970s: in 1982, with a 2-0 first-round victory over New Jersey, in 2005, with that 4-2 series win over Chicago, and in 2014, with a 4-1 triumph over those same Bulls. Man, not many people have had it worse than us. But better times could be ahead.
The always fun Wizards playoff history graphic pic.twitter.com/2Bf0GbrOqI— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) April 30, 2014
Worst Prediction: Let’s never forget Michael Wilbon’s prediction before the playoffs began: “That’s just the kind of team the Bulls should eat for lunch in a seven-game playoff series, a team whose best two players haven’t navigated the intensity of the playoffs, a team that thinks offense is somehow going to rule the day in the postseason…. Team defense — the Bulls rank No. 1 in that department among playoff teams in games against other playoff teams — ought to slow the Wizards enough for the Bulls to win in six games.” WRONG, SIR.
Best Possession: Late in the fourth quarter, with the Wizards up by three, Bradley Beal missed a shot. Marcin Gortat rebounded. Then Nene missed a shot. Gortat rebounded. Then John Wall missed a shot. Gortat rebounded. Then the Wizards turned the ball over. So sure, they got zero points. But that was 78 seconds off the clock, depressing a crowd that sort of was thinking of maybe getting into the game.
Best Other Rebounds: Still up three, with less than 20 seconds left, Andre Miller missed two free throws. But Nene rebounded the ball. Bradley Beal then hit a free throw to put Washington up four. He missed the second, but Nene rebounded the ball again. That gave Washington eight offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. The Bulls were supposed to be the tougher team
Worst Losing Skid: Kirk Hinrich has now lost eight of his past nine playoff games against the Wizards. I mean, that’s virtually impossible to do. It’s been three decades since anyone could possibly have lost eight of nine playoff games to a Washington basketball team.
Worst Flow: That game had all the fluidity and grace of a tackling dummy drenched in apple cider and tossed off the top of an industrial dumpster. Mercy. I mean, I’ve seen fourth-grade games conducted with more artistry, and with fewer basketballs rolling on the ground. The 75 points the Wizards scored were the least they had ever scored in a playoff win.
Best Energy: Trevor Booker has been a revelation for much of this series, and that continued Tuesday night, when the reserve forward had 6 points and 7 rebounds and about 17 hustle plays off the bench. More than the stats, though, was the sense that in a game played in a valley full of cheese grits, at a pace befitting sluggish mascots carrying large melons in their tails, Booker moved with the energy of a four-year old high on birthday cake. “My new favorite player, in the entire league,” Steve Kerr said of Booker in the fourth quarter. “The guy’s unbelievable.”
Worst Shooting: Chicago, which boasts one of the unsightliest offensive teams in the NBA playoffs, began this elimination game by making 6 of its first 23 shots. That’s 26 percent shooting, which isn’t good. “We’ve dodged some bullets with some shots they’ve missed, so we’ve got to step up defensively,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman told TNT after the first quarter. A first quarter in which Chicago made six shots.
Worst Game Shooting: You know, that didn’t really do it justice. For the game — the entire game — the Bulls made 25 of 75 shots. That’s 33 percent shooting. For the game. With their season on the line. Chicago’s three bench players combined to go 4-for-21, which is even worse. Barfola.
Worst Shooting Stretch: Over the last 7 minutes and 11 seconds of the third quarter, the Bulls made one field goal. They missed 11 shots in that span. They just aren’t very good at scoring.
Best Quote: Late in the game, TNT’s cameras caught Randy Wittman rallying his team on the bench. “Let’s go, we’ve been here,” he told the Wizards. “We’ve been here before. All right, we’ve been here before.” I mean, they really hadn’t, but it was a good thought. Unless he meant in Chicago. They had been in Chicago before.
Best Wizards Fans: Or worst. Either way. Way to represent, though.
Worst Ball Security: The Wizards entered Game 5 entering a bit less than 10 turnovers a game during the playoffs. Tuesday night, they had 8 turnovers in the first half. At halftime, Chicago had 12 points off turnovers, to just two for Washington. That improved in the second half, when Washington turned it over just 5 times.
Best First Half Closer: During Game 2 in Chicago, John Wall scored Washington’s final seven points of the first half. During Game 5 in Chicago, John Wall scored Washington’s final seven points of the first half.
Best Pass: This one, from John Wall in the third quarter, which forced a Chicago timeout.
Worst Arena Anthem: “Every-body-clap-your-hands; clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-zzzzzz-snooooooooze-boooooooorrrrriiiiing.” I mean, how long have they been playing that ditty? At least a decade, right? Can’t they vary it up a little bit? “Every-body-stomp-your-feet; stomp-stomp-stomp-stomp-stomp-stomp.” I kind of stomped in my seat while typing that. Try it. It’s fun. A lot more fun than clapping.
Best Starts: The Wizards dominated the first quarter five games in a row. In Game 1, they led by 2 after 12 minutes. In Game 2, the lead was 11. In Game 3, it was 2 again. In Game 4 it was 10. And in Game 5, the first quarter lead was 8 points. That’s a total point differential of 33 points in the first quarter.
Worst Follow-Up: Following the pattern of what felt like every game in this series, the Bulls eventually rallied, this time with a 17-4 run in the second quarter that turned a potential blowout into a close game at halftime.
Worst Crowd: For all the grief I’ve given Verizon Center crowds this year….I mean, was there anyone inside United Center on Tuesday night? There appeared to be bodies there. Maybe they were just really chill bodies? Chill, as in near dead. Or possibly actually dead. Corpses still count for attendance, right? Or maybe everyone kind of agreed that cheering takes a lot of energy and sometimes can hurt your ears and throat and even your rib cage in rare cases, and so merely existing in mute fandom is fandom enough? That crowd existed, I suppose. It existed hard.
Best Player: After his suspension, Nene rebounded with a fury. Not just rebounded the ball. I mean, he bounced back too. The big man had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, and seemed to frustrate the stuffing out of Joakim Noah. If anyone thought the Wizards were better without Nene after Game 4, this game should have put those thoughts to rest.
Worst Tanking: Remember when the Nets seemed to lay down at the end of the season in order to avoid Chicago? Well, Brooklyn is knotted at 2 games each with Toronto and headed back north, while the Bulls are already packing up for the year.
Best Feeling: The top-seeded Pacers are fighting for their playoff lives against Atlanta, a team with a losing record. So Washington will play either a losing team, or a top-seeded team that was pushed to seven games and is in all sorts of disarray. And meanwhile, the Wizards will just chill out and wait at home to find out which team wins. What kind of life is this?