What Happened: Behind John Wall’s 24 points and seven rebounds, Washington held off Chicago for a 75-69 win to close out the series 4-1 on the road. The series victory marks the Wizards first since 2005 (when they also beat the Bulls) and just their third in the last 32 years.
What Went Well for the Wizards: After turning the ball over just once in the first half, the Wizards forced Chicago into four turnovers in the first six minutes of the third quarter, leading to several transition buckets and increasing the pace back in Washington’s favor. On the other hand, Washington had zero turnovers in the third quarter and just four total in the second half. Nene continued to stretch the floor with his midrange jumper and passing out of the post while Bradley Beal got going by finding open space for pull-up jumpers and floaters, scoring 10 of his 17 points in the second half. Chicago continued its cold shooting and often settled for perimeter shots rather than relying on their typically physical play in the paint. Washington capitalized on those misses, pushing the ball to outscore Chicago in transition. Trevor Booker’s hustle also created a number of second-chance opportunities and served as a much-needed spark off the bench. John Wall had his best offensive game of the series while also contributing seven rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, the Wizards grabbed — well, mostly tapped out — eight offensive boards in the fourth quarter to make up for their field goal and free throw misses down the stretch.
What Went Wrong for the Wizards: Marcin Gortat’s struggles continued. Outside of his 13 rebounds, including three huge offensive boards in the final minutes, the Wizards center mustered just two points, failed to knock down shots off post moves and offered little resistance on Chicago’s drives to the rim. With Nene back and playing well, Gortat’s play wasn’t as important in the paint. But had both Wizards bigs been on, it’s safe to say this game would have been decided much earlier than the fourth quarter. It’s also safe to say Chicago wouldn’t have grabbed 11 offensive boards, which made for a handful of their few easy baskets. The Wizards scored a playoff-low 75 points, allowing the Bulls to slow down the tempo during prolonged stretches and proving unable to hit key shots and free throws down the stretch to close out the game. Washington also had a series-low 16 assists and often neglected the ball movement and extra passes that ignited their offense before Tuesday.
What to Watch For: Now the Wizards will wait to see who wins between Indiana and Atlanta. The No. 8 seed Hawks lead 3-2 entering Thursday’s game in Atlanta, leaving them one win away from a rare upset that would give Washington home-court advantage in the second round. In the meantime, the Wizards need to regroup after closing out the Bulls with their least convincing win of the series. But rest, coupled with the momentum and confidence built from the franchise’s first series victory since 2005, should bode well for the Wizards going forward.