Nene was suspended for game four after his altercation in game three with Jimmy Butler. Nene has been a difficult match up for the Bulls through the first three games, so it was up to someone else from the Wizards squad to step up in his absence.
This is not unfamiliar territory for Washington as they had played over twenty games during the season without Nene. Players stepped up in Nene’s absence over that span and today was reflective of that time.
The Wizards have consistently gotten off to good starts in this series and today was one of the best of the playoffs. Washington was off to a 14-0 run to start the game in the first four minutes with contributions from Gortat, Beal and Ariza.
The quick start was imperative for Washington with the absence of Nene, for them to set the tone for the rest of the game. With a hot start, the Wizards never looked back and had a 55-40 lead at the half.
The Wizards concluded the third quarter with a twenty-point lead and never let up. During the fourth quarter, there was a time down the stretch where Washington gave up some of their lead and made things interesting. All in all, the Wizards closed out a “must-win” game with a 98-89 victory.
-Trevor Ariza has been solid every game chipping in a decent amount of scoring support. Ariza mentioned in his post game presser that due to his playoff experience, he knew that when Nene was given the suspension he was the guy that needed to step up with a surplus of scoring. Ariza finished with 30 points and was 6-10 from the three-point strike. This Wizards offense is a completely different squad when Ariza is shooting with a hot hand and tough to match up with. I would like to see Ariza shooting more as the playoffs come along.
– Ariza was not the only Trevor that had a good performance in the absence of Nene. Trevor Booker assumed the starting role and put in 8 points to go along with 9 rebounds. Booker had good energy from the very start of the game and had impact on both ends of the court. Six of his nine rebounds were offensive rebounds, giving the Wizards more second chance opportunities. While impacting the offensive boards, Booker also finished with 3 blocks.
– Marcin Gortat was the primary player that stepped up the most in the 20+ games that Nene missed during the regular season. Gortat has not had the best series thus far, but today was his best game. Gortat finished with 17 points, was shooting well from mid range and was in sync with John Wall in the pick and roll game.
– The young guards continue to flourish in this series and John Wall did a great job of managing the game. Wall spoke about his failures of managing the game in game 3 when they let a 9-point lead slip and ultimately the game. Once they had the lead tonight, Wall kept the offense going and the lead never faded away from them. He finished with 15 points and 10 assists while Beal chipped in 18 points.
– The Wizards defensively were good all game compared to their last match. Coach Wittman mentioned last post game press conference that his team missed more defensive assignments that night then games one and two combined. Their defense tightened up today and never gave the Bulls much life.
– Dunleavy has a 35-point performance last game and today was shut down to only 6 points. The Wizards did a nice job of closing out on him and not giving him the open looks like they did game 3.
– Taj Gibson is the only Bull that continues to impose his will on the Wizards defense as he finished with 32 points. Washington has got to find ways to limit Gibson because if they close out the series, they will have some match ups with quality bigs next round.
Game five is back in Chicago and Washington has a chance to close out the first round. It was a nice environment on a Sunday afternoon for the DC crowd as the Wizards won their first home playoff game since April 24, 2008. The DC fans after Tuesday could have a lot more to cheer for if the Wizards close out the series and bring back a second round of basketball to the Verizon Center.