What happened: The Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls are tied at 41 following a back-and-forth first half in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.
What went well for the Wizards: For the fifth time in five games, the Wizards got off to a fast start, shooting 52.6 percent in the opening period to take an eight-point lead. Nene silenced the tongue-in-cheek comments that the Wizards were better off without him by scoring 10 points — mostly on mid-range jumpers — while grabbing four rebounds. That didn’t stop back-up forward Trevor Booker from getting into the action. The fourth-year player from Clemson went coast-to-coast for one of his two buckets and provided plenty of hustle plays to spark the Wizards. John Wall also shed his recent shooting struggles and found offensive success with 13 first-half points. Chicago, meanwhile, shot a paltry 26 percent in the first quarter. Washington also made all of its first-half free throws for the second game in a row.
What went wrong for the Wizards: For the fifth time in five games, the Wizards let the Bulls hang around following a fast start. Once again, Taj Gibson energized Chicago off the bench with a strong dunk during a 17-4 second-quarter run to take the lead. After having just six turnovers in all of Game 4, the Wizards turned it over eight times in the first half Tuesday compared to Chicago’s one. As Wizards Coach Randy Wittman pointed out during an in-game interview, Washington’s defense wasn’t so much efficient as it was the Bulls were inefficient in making shots. Though Chicago is shooting just 34.9 percent, the score is tied and the game is up for grabs.
What to watch for in the second half: With the crowd against them and pressure on them to close out this series, how the Wizards respond to start the second half will be critical to the game’s outcome. Washington seemed to relax after its hot start and allowed Chicago to slow down the game to its preferred pace. The Wizards need to turn things up on defense to force more turnovers and create more transition opportunities.