Best and worst moments from the Wizards’ 102-93 win over the Bulls Sunday night in Chicago.
Best Response to the Haters: Nene was in the starting lineup for the first time in five games since returning from a sprained knee ligament that sidelined him for six weeks and looked as good as he has all season. He announced his return with a thunderous dunk to open the scoring, finished with 24 and eight rebounds, and established a new playoff career high with 11 made field goals on 17 attempts. He also answered the Wizards’ doubters. “Haters are haters,” Nene said of the Wizards’ perceived role as the underdog entering the series. “We’re going to play hard with a lot of passion. Who knows the future? Only God. The haters know the past. I know the present but the future, only God knows.” The future is looking a lot better for Washington after Sunday night.
Best Series Lead: Washington had lost Game 1 in each of its last eight playoff series dating back to a Game 1 win over Philadelphia in the first round of the 1986 playoffs. The Bullets/Wizards lost seven of those eight series, with the only exception being 2005, when Washington lost Games 1 and 2 at Chicago before winning four straight.
Worst Free Throw Shooting: The Wizards are terrible at free throws and missed 12 of their 21 attempts in the first half.
Best Free Throw Shooting: The Wizards are amazing at free throws and made all 14 of their attempts in the second half.
Best Emotion: The normally stoic Trevor Ariza spoke for all Wizards fans when he let out a yell after a reverse layup in the third quarter. So this is what playoff basketball looks like.
Best or Worst Visualization: Bradley Beal told reporters before the game that he had already visualized making his first shot in Chicago. When asked what kind of shot, Beal said a layup. Beal’s first shot of the game was a missed jumper, but his first made basket was a driving layup in the first quarter. Should he get credit for calling his shot? “I told you it was going to happen, but hopefully [Tuesday] it will be a three,” Beal told Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller after the game. Beal struggled with his shot (3-for-11) in his first playoff game, but had a team-high seven assists, made all seven of his free throws and had a key block on D.J. Augustin in the fourth quarter.
Best Sound: The last time Washington visited Chicago for a postseason game, Gilbert Arenas sucked the life out of the United Center crowd with a game-winning shot as time expired in Game 5 of the teams’ first round series in 2005. Washington didn’t require the same sort of heroics on Sunday night, but the result was just the same. “This place is emptying out,” Comcast SportsNet’s Steve Buckhantz said. “Wizards by eight with 25 seconds to go.”
Worst Shot and Best Bounce: Leading 94-90 with less than a minute to play, the Wizards had the ball and a chance to extend their lead. John Wall’s 20-foot jumper was too strong and missed the rim, but the ball deflected to Marcin Gortat. The Polish Machine’s 13th rebound led to his 14th and 15th points on an easy putback, as the Wizards took a six-point lead.
Best Grown Folk Business: The Wizards missed their first five shots to start the fourth quarter before getting an unlikely offensive lift from backup point guard Andre Miller. The 38-year-old Miller, who has not won a playoff series in nine previous trips to the postseason, scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter. It marked only the third time that Miller has scored in double figures in 29 games since being acquired from Denver in February.
Worst Bench: Outside of Miller, the Wizards’ bench combined for only six points and was outscored by Chicago’s reserves 30-16.
Worst Start to the Second Half: The Wizards, who led for much of the first half, trailed by six at halftime and appeared to be on the verge of letting the game get out of hand after the break. After going scoreless in the first half, Mike Dunleavy scored eight points as part of a 10-3 Chicago run to open the second half that gave the Bulls a 64-51 lead.
Best Answer: Randy Wittman called a timeout, the Wizards whittled away at the Bulls’ lead and entered the fourth quarter trailing by only three.
Best Football Play: A Nene dunk was negated after Gortat was called for an offensive foul for clearing out Joakim Noah in the lane with a block that would make Trent Williams proud.
Best Quickness: Wall finished with 16 points despite making only 4 of his 14 shots. He also had six assists, six rebounds and two steals, including this one.
Best Craig Sager Tributes: TNT’s Steve Kerr and Marv Albert wore extravagant, pastel-colored suits in honor of longtime sideline reporter Craig Sager, who will miss the NBA playoffs while battling leukemia. Buckhantz and Phil Chenier also acknowledged Sager, as did Wittman during his TNT interview between the first and second quarters.
— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 21, 2014