It has been a long time since the Washington Wizards have played in the second round of the postseason. We have to take it all the way back to the 2004-05 season for that to happen. Just to put that into perspective, here are some things that were going on in the playoffs in 2005:
- Gwen Stefani had the No. 1 hit in America with “Hollaback Girl”
I know all you were frantically opening a new tab to YouTube to bob your head to Stefani so you can thank me for saving you some time today.
- Juan Dixon (He A Terp) scored 35 points for the Wizards in that year’s first round. An NBA career highlight for the 2002 NCAA champion.
- Bradley Beal was 12 years old.
- Huffington Post was launched.
So yeah, it has been awhile since the nation’s capital has had much basketball success. But now, with a 3-1 lead over the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards have a chance to march on to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs with a win in Chicago tonight.
The Wizards have owned this series so far. They stole the first two games of the series on the road thanks to a monster Nene Hilario game in the opener and a Bradley Beal takeover in the second one. In front of a raucous home crowd in Game 3, the Wizards lost in a tightly played contest after a Nene ejection seemed to swing the momentum and propel the Bulls to victory. On Sunday, the teams faced in what many believed could be a turning point in the series. If the Bulls win, they are right back in the mix of things and if the Wizards win, this series is all but over. However, what really made it interesting was that Nene was suspended for Game 4 after stupidly getting tangled up with Jimmy Butler of the Bulls in the previous game. It was an immature move nonetheless and a worthy suspension. Now it was up to the Wizards to respond in front of their crowd without a player that had been having great success in the fist couple games.
And did they ever so.
They beat the Bulls decisively 98-89. The Wizards almost let the Bulls back into it at the end, but they were in total control of this game from the tip. The Wizards sprinted out of the gate going up 17-2 to start the game. They were led by Trevor Ariza, who continues to gain the attention of the national media with his play in this series. He had 30 points and eight rebounds along with six 3-pointers. Trevor Booker brought exceptional energy in Nene’s shoes, scoring eight points and adding nine rebounds. It was a total team effort and showed this team knew how important gong up 3-1 was instead of being tied 2-2 heading back to Chicago for Game 5. Now all they have to do is wrap it up.
I think the Wizards finish things off in Chicago tonight. I just think this team is in an absolute groove right now. I also just think the Bulls aren’t very good and we over-hyped their play in the regular season, solely based off how hard they play. They simply can’t score the basketball and their star, Joakim Noah, has been neutralized by the Wizard bigs. The Wizards have to come out and play like this is a Game 7 and jump on the Bulls early again to leave no doubt in this series.
- Trevor Ariza has been ballin’. He is averaging 18 points per game while shooting 48.1 percent from beyond the arc and is pulling down 8.5 rebounds per contest. While those numbers are nice, his advanced numbers stand out as well. He has a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 21.4, an offensive rating of 134 and a defensive rating of of 106. With Ariza on the court the Wizards are scoring 114.1 points per 100 possessions and allowing 100.6 points per 100 possessions. With him off the court, the Wizards are scoring 83 points per 100 possessions and giving up 118.2. Yeah, I would say he has been important in the series so far.
- We have not gotten full Playoff John Wall yet. While Wall hasn’t been bad in any way, he has not stood out in long spurts of times this series. Wall is averaging 17.5 points per game along with 7.5 assists. Those are extremely productive numbers, but Wall has not had a big moment yet in this series. Part of that is, I don’t really think he has had a chance to. A big closeout game in Chicago could be that moment.
- Jalen Rose has a nickname for the backcourt of Wall and Beal, Hustle and Flow. I like it. What do you think?
- The crowd at Verizon looked great in Games 3 and 4. It was a joy to see because D.C. has rich basketball history and deserves to have a good team again.
- Owner Ted Leonsis sitting courtside Game 4 in a Nene jersey was pretty cool to see. It was a nice little silent protest for Nene’s suspension, even though the suspension was rightfully given.