What happened: Washington used a red-hot first quarter to build a 55-40 halftime lead on Chicago in Game 4 at Verizon Center. Trevor Ariza leads the way with 17 points on five three-pointers.
What went well for the Wizards: Washington topped its blistering start in Game 2 by beginning Sunday’s game with a 14-0 run behind balanced scoring, three forced turnovers and the sharpshooting of Trevor Ariza, who hit 5 of 6 shots from downtown. Trevor Booker also set the tone with his physicality, blocking two shots while showing plenty of emotion to fans and teammates. A front court already depleted by Nene’s suspension took another blow when Booker and Gortat went to the bench in the first quarter with two fouls each, but Washington was able to remain in control, thanks to Drew Gooden’s active play and Martell Webster’s eight points. More importantly, the Wizards went 7 for 7 from the free throw line. This should pay dividends with the game bound to get tighter in the second half. Defensively, the Bulls clamped down on everyone not named Taj Gibson (see below). The rest of the Bulls were held to a total of 20 points on 7-for-32 shooting while committing 10 turnovers.
This sign of support also went well for Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 27, 2014
What went wrong for the Wizards: Learning how to play both physical and smart remains something of a challenge. Amidst their strong start, Gortat, Booker, Gooden and Al Harrington all picked up two fouls — a number that could come back to hurt the Wizards late in the game. With the Bulls struggling from the field (37.5 percent shooting), the last thing Washington needed to do was send them to the charity stripe. As he’s been prone to do, Gibson capitalized in the paint, scoring 20 of the team’s 40 points on 8-for-8 shooting to energize Chicago as its lone source of offense.
What to watch for in the second half: As this physical contest wears on, more fouls are going to be called. With the Wizards’ bench one player thinner and four players with at least two fouls, Washington will be need to be smarter on defense. The Wizards will also need to slow down Gibson more. If not for him, this game would be very ugly for the Bulls. Take away his offense and continue to push the tempo, and the Wizards are rolling to a 3-1 series lead.