Here’s the skinny in the aftermath of Game 1 between the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls:
What happened: Nene scores a game-high 24 points and grabs eight rebounds to lead the Wizards past the Bulls for a 102-93 win on the road. The victory marks Washington’s first in Game 1 of a seven-game series since 1979.
What went well for the Wizards: Sparked by a steal and dunk by John Wall, the Wizards reverted back to the roots of penetrate-and-pass offense to go on a 13-4 run and pull within three points near at end of the third quarter. They then outscored the Bulls 30-8 in the fourth quarter to close out the win. Despite Wall and Bradley Beal’s struggles shooting from the perimeter, the Wizards were able to shoot 48.6 percent against the NBA’s best defensive team while winning the rebounding battle, 44-39, including a huge put-back by Gortat in the final minute. In his first start since returning from a sprained knee ligament, Nene logged 35 minutes and served as the team’s most consistent player, knocking down seven jumpers to help stretch the defense. Andre Miller provided a spark off the bench with 10 points and left Wizards Coach Randy Wittman in limbo as to when to put Wall back in the game late in the fourth quarter. Along with Nene and Miller, the postseason experience and leadership of Trevor Ariza proved critical in the Wizards clawing back into the lead.
What went wrong for the Wizards: Chicago had seven players in double figures, including D.J. Augustin’s 16 points and Taj Gibson’s 12 off the bench. Ten of Augustin’s points came at the free throw line, where Bulls racked up 26 attempts. Washington will need more contribution from its bench outside of the 38-year-old Miller to match the spirited play of Chicago’s reserves.
What to watch for in Game 2: Whether it was postseason jitters or just an off shooting night, now that Wall and Beal have their first playoff game under their belt, the Wizards will need a better offensive output than their 7-for-25 shooting. How Nene’s body responds after his first extended action under the playoff intensity will be something to monitor, especially on just one day of rest.