What happened: The Washington Wizards mostly cruised to a 98-89 win against Chicago in Game 4 at Verizon Center to take a 3-1 series lead. The outcome marked Washington’s first home playoff win since April 24, 2008, when the Wizards beat Cleveland, 108-72.
What went well for the Wizards: Just about everything. Trevor Ariza scored a playoff career-high 30 points and tied a franchise playoff record with six three-pointers. The Wizards put together easily their best free throw performance of the playoffs by hitting 20 of 25 attempts. Defensively, Washington did well rotating its players as Chicago cycled through its offense in search of an open shot, forcing the Bulls into several of contested three-pointers, where they shot just 4 for 19. After Taj Gibson scored 20 first-half points, the Wizards held him to 12 in the second half. The Wizards also played physically, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds, and smart, yielding just six turnovers. John Wall led the up-tempo attack with 10 assists — his first double-digit performance of the playoffs — and two of Washington’s eight steals to open things in transition. Meantime, Bradley Beal hit more timely shots en route to 18 points, displaying his continued evolution into a big-time playoff performer.
What went wrong for the Wizards: With Nene out, Washington’s bench players saw more on-court action but it only added up to 10 points among five players. Drew Gooden especially struggled, picking up more fouls (five) than rebounds (two) or points (two). For as strong as the Wizards began Sunday’s game, Washington still lacks the killer instinct necessary to remove all doubt once it has pounced on them early: A 23-point lead was whittled to eight in the final minutes before Washington held on
What to watch for in Game 5: Washington needs just one win to close things out and win its first playoff series since 2005, when it also downed Chicago in the first round. So far, road teams have been dominant in these playoffs, which bodes well for the Wizards. The fact that their easiest win of the series came Sunday without Nene is both a good and curious outcome, considering all Nene did in Washington’s first two wins. Still, his return should be a welcome one. Washington has put together strong starts throughout the series but the difference Sunday was their ability to maintain control during the second and third quarters. It’s clear Washington holds the advantage in offensive talent, making their defensive showing the key to success in Game 5.