The Washington Wizards have gone into a tough Chicago environment and have stolen two games on the road. Both games have featured deficits in the fourth quarter, but the Wizards have found ways to battle back and win late in the clutch. Stealing one game on the road would have been huge for the Wizards, but winning both opening games in Chicago gives this team a new level of confidence.
– One of the key match ups going into the series was the battle between the front-courts on both teams. Joakim Noah is the NBA defensive player of the year in 2014, but he has not been able to solve Nene defensively. Nene has used his strength and athleticism to get the best of Noah in both games. Nene registered 17 points tonight and six of those points were crucial in the overtime period. He also had 24 points in game one.
– Marcin Gortat is the other big that has been tremendous for the Wizards all season long especially working with Wall in the pick and roll game. Gortat has not been as big of an impact player thus far in the playoffs and it especially showed tonight. He shot 2-9 from the field with only 7 points and he was not as dominant on the boards defensively, allowing Chicago many second chance opportunities.
– So much was made heading into the playoffs of how Bradley Beal and John Wall would do in their first post-season experiences. Wall struggled game one, but Wall had major impact from tip-off. Beal and Wall were dominant in the first half, but they struggled in the third quarter. They regained their groove in the fourth quarter and Beal was the major reason why Washington forced overtime.
– Beal finished the night with 26 points and Wall with 16. Wall was much better tonight in finding better shooting areas and knew when to facilitate the offense in clutch moments.
– Ariza was solid tonight and his presence was felt more in game one of the series. One thing I would like to see as the series heads to Washington is Ariza become more aggressive shooting. When he is feeling it from the three-point line, it opens up the floor more. Opening things up from Ariza could lead to more interior success for Gortat.
– If Washington wants to close out the first round at home, they will need to find ways to stop the Bulls Bench. D.J. Augustin came off the bench and contributed 25 points. Augustin’s offensive success is what got Chicago back into the game after a large deficit to start the game.
– Taj Gibson is arguably the sixth man of the year in the NBA and has looked every bit of it in both games. Gibson has been a problem for the DC front court and his offensive play continues to spark the Bulls when they need it most. Coach Wittman has got to find out ways to limit Gibson offensively and the team needs to do better on the boards. Gibson has 9 offensive rebounds tonight and 22 points.
The Wizards first home game of the post-season tips-off this Friday night for a pivotal game three. Washington is in a very fortunate situation to be up two on the series and need to sustain their current energy. They have had a good combination of play between the veteran front court and young back court. They have adjustments to make both offensively and defensively until Friday, but this team has got to be thrilled with the situation they have put themselves in.