Here’s the skinny from the first half of Game 1 of the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls first-round playoff series:
What Happened: The Wizards trail the Bulls, 54-48 at halftime. After Washington got off to a strong start behind Nene’s 14 points, Chicago was ignited by the play off the bench of D.J. Augustin (12 points) and Taj Gibson (eight points).
What Went Right for the Wizards: With all the talk of Chicago as the NBA’s toughest defensive team, Washington showed no fear attacking the basket. Fueled by a thunderous dunk by Nene for the game’s first points, the Wizards went 7 for 11 in the paint during the first quarter. Speaking of Nene, the veteran forward looked strong in his first start since returning from a sprained knee ligament, scoring 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting while grabbing five rebounds. After averaging nearly 20 three-point attempts in their last eight games, the Wizards shot just four three-pointers and made two. As the NBA’s fifth-best three-point shooting team, the Wizards are prone to look for the three, but their focus on attacking the paint early is a sound alternative to living and dying by the three.
What Went Wrong for the Wizards: Nene picked up his second foul midway through the second quarter but remained in the game and appeared gassed, which allowed Gibson to spark the Bulls off the bench. While Washington showed proficiency in the paint, outside of Nene’s mid-range jumpers, the Wizards struggled from the perimeter. John Wall especially had trouble getting going, shooting just 3 for 10 for 12 points. The all-star guard found ways to impact the game by dishing out three assists and pushing the tempo in Washington’s favor, but he could be seen pressing at times in his first playoff appearance and looked off Marcin Gortat on several pick-and-roll plays. Defensively, Wizards showed some signs of fatigue with a number of second-quarter fouls. After shooting just one free throw in the first quarter, Chicago hit 13 of 16 attempts in the second quarter. Meantime, Washington missed nine of its 21 free throw attempts.
What To Watch For in the Second Half: After getting a breather at halftime, the Wizards will likely again look to Nene to spark them on both ends of the floor. But while the forward continues to get his legs under him, Washington will need its bench to score more than the six points it currently has. Defensively, the Wizards will need to be more active on the boards and match the intensity of Gibson and Joakim Noah.