The Washington Wizards marched into the Windy City Sunday and beat the Chicago Bulls 102-93 in the first game of the 2014 playoffs.
It was an impressive win for the Wizards. Let’s just put it this way, the last time the Wizards won a game 1 of a playoff series was 1986, via Michael Lee of the Washington Post. They opened up with a win in this series on the shoulders of the big Brazilian, Nene.
Nene was dominant in this game. Nene, who started for the Wizards for the first time since coming back from injury, played a surprising 35 minutes and made the most of them. He scored 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. He dominated Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. He straight bullied Noah and got what every he wanted on offense. It was quite an impressive performance considering how few minutes he had played in the few games since he has been back from injury.
Besides Nene, no one really stood out for the Wizards. Trevor Ariza was quietly very good, scoring 18 points on eight shots and providing good perimeter defense. While it was not very fun seeing the Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal not play up to their standards in their first-ever playoff game, the Wizards have to be encouraged knowing they can get a win on the road without their backcourt turning in a great performances. The two combined for 29 points on 7-of-25 shooting.
The Wizards offense had its ups and downs in this one, but their defense was pretty good. The Bulls are not the best offense by any means, but when Noah is in a groove and operating the offense, the Bulls are not as painful on that end of the court. However, the Wizards never let Noah get comfortable on offense and the Bulls had trouble scoring the basketball, to no surprise. The Wizards held the Bulls to 42 percent shooting and if it wasn’t for the 13 offensive rebounds the Wizards gave up, this one would not have even been this close.
Game 2 is going to be a battle. You know Noah and coach Tom Thibodeau are going to locked in and amped up for tonight’s matchup. Here are some keys to the game.
1. Can Nene play big minutes again?
Nene was thought to be on a minutes restriction entering the playoffs after missing significant time towards the end of the regular season, but after his 35 minute outburst on Sunday it will be interesting to see if he can play big minutes again tonight. While he was on the floor he really seemed to take Noah out of the game, but Nene is getting old and his body is prone to breaking down from playing big minutes. The Wizards will need another good performance from Nene in game two.
2. Will the Wizards find a way to get open 3-pointers?
The Bulls are going to run you off the 3-point line. That is what they do. They want to funnel you into Noah. It is a big reason why the Wizards only shot 11 3s Sunday (they made four). For a team that averages nearly 21 3-point attempts a a game and benefits greatly from the long ball, it will be interesting to see how the Wizards try to get open looks tonight. My take, Wall has to really put pressure on Chicago early to open things up.
3. Can the Wizards stop D.J. Augustin again?
Yeah, I can’t believe I typed that either. But seriously, he is their best perimeter scorer and he was 3-of-15 Sunday night and when he can’t easy buckets for the Bulls, then literally every possession is a grind. The Wizards need to make sure they don’t let Augustin get hot for Game 2 and score easy points for the Bulls.
Tags: Washington Wizards