The Washington Post

Despite being up 3-1, the Wizards enter Game 5 with a sense of urgency

Wizards forward Trevor Ariza has averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the first-round series against the Chicago Bulls. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There was no overt joy for the Wizards on Monday as the team prepared for Tuesday’s Game 5 against Chicago. Despite holding a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series, the Wizards are approaching the potential clinching game with the reserve of a team in much worse shape.

“We’re desperate,” coach Randy Wittman said. “That’s how I want us playing. We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve won three games, and you have to win four. So we have not accomplished anything yet, and I want our guys desperate to get it done.”

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Without Nene in the lineup, Washington played its best game of the series Sunday to take a commanding series lead. With the scene shifting back to Chicago, the Wizards are expecting the Bulls to throw everything at them to try to force a Game 6 back in D.C.

“Their season is on the line,” forward Drew Gooden said. “They will be fighting, clawing, scratching, doing whatever it takes to keep their season alive.”

The Wizards have already stolen two games in Chicago and have proved to be a much better road team this season, winning 22 games away from the Verizon Center after compiling just 19 road victories over the past three seasons.

Washington center Marcin Gortat said the team’s focus is singular when on the road, especially thus far in the playoffs.

“I think we have more confidence playing on the road, because when you score a basket, we’re not going to be flexing to Chicago fans,” he said. “When you’re at home and you score a bucket, then we’re all getting crazy and nuts. We ain’t going to do that over there. We’re just going to score and get back on defense. That’s the good part about it.”

Wittman resists the notion that the Wizards are underdogs in this series and has pushed that mentality onto his players, who have responded in this physical series.

“It’s going to be tough, definitely,” forward Trevor Booker said. “If we prepare right and stay focused, I think we can do it.”

Gooden, one of the few Wizards who have been in this situation before, liked the way the team practiced heading into the franchise’s biggest game in years.

“We know what we need to do,” he said. “We know the consequences if we don’t get this win. We need to put them away now.”



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Adam Vingan · April 28, 2014