Game 2 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series is at the half between the fifth-seeded Washington Wizards and fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls. Here’s a breakdown of how the first half played out:
WHAT HAPPENED: Behind a fast start and John Wall’s 14 points, the Wizards lead the Bulls 56-49 at halftime.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE WIZARDS: After shooting 49 percent in Game 1, the Wizards came out blazing in the first quarter, hitting 22 of their 41 attempts. Wall and Bradley Beal answered the questions of how they would recover from their uneven playoff debuts by combining for 27 points and 10 field goals after totaling just seven in Game 1. Many of their buckets resulted from their activity on defense, leading to steals and several transition opportunities, which helped push the tempo in Washington’s favor. As a result, the Bulls again uncharacteristically resorted to shooting threes and hit just four of nine before getting back to their physical style in the second quarter. The Wizards received some necessary help from their bench, totaling 15 points from Trevor Booker, Andre Miller and Martell Webster after getting just 16 points from their reserves in Game 1.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE WIZARDS: Chicago chipped away at Washington’s hot start by countering the Wizards’ speed with physical play. The Bulls grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to help build an 14-2 run late in the second quarter and pull within one. Taj Gibson grabbed five offensive rebounds on his own to match Washington’s total. Meanwhile, Washington had just five offensive rebounds. D.J. Augustin’s 14 points off the bench was key in setting up Chicago’s comeback. As the Bulls’ leading scorer and one of the few players able to match Washington’s speed, Augustin sliced into the lane often as Wall and Beal proved unable to neutralize him. Between Augustin and Gibson, the Bulls bench outscored the Wizards bench, 27-16.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN SECOND HALF: Chicago used a big second quarter to take the lead in Game 1 before the Wizards clamped down defensively late. How Washington responds out the gate in tonight’s second half will be critical in determining which team can control the game with its choice of pace. Washington’s defensive rebounding has to improve and while it’s good that Beal and Wall are pefrorming well, the Wizards need their front court of Marcin Gortat and Nene to rediscover their Game 1 success and aggressiveness.