By Dustin Brewer
Washington wins their first playoff series since 2005, eliminating an injury-riddled Chicago Bulls team in five games.
Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah was held to just six points but added in 18 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Bulls while the Wizards young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal continued to grow in the spotlight and show the rest of the East that the Wizards are a legitimate threat to come out of the conference.
Wall had 24 points and four assists while Beal chipped in 17 as the Wizards clinched the series, winning 75-69. The real story for the Wizards though is the elevated play they’ve been getting from Nene, who returned from a 1-game suspension to put up 20 points and seven rebounds, oftentimes keeping plays alive with his hustle and finding cutting teammates with sharp passes. He outplayed Noah almost every step of the series and if Nene can keep this level up, the Wizards present a nightmare matchup for any of the teams remaining in the East. They have the youth, the speed and the length to frustrate teams in every position on the floor, like they did with a Bulls team that was still considered the favorite despite all their injuries.
Throughout the series and tonight, Washington just flat out looked to have another gear. They generated turnovers that led to a ton of fastbreak opportunities for Wall, who looked like the fastest man in the world at times leading the break downcourt.
After playing so undermanned for so long, it finally caught up to Chicago.Without Derrick Rose or Luol Deng, losing Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter, the Bulls just finally couldn’t cover the holes anymore.
The Wizards will wait to see they’re Round 2 opponent; either the Pacers or the Atlanta Hawks, and with the Hawks currently up 3-2 with the series headed back to Atlanta, you have to imagine that they’ll be watching closely the next few days.
The Bulls have nothing to hang their heads about though, they were one of the best teams the entire regular season and the passion they played with despite all the setbacks and injuries speaks volumes for the team and coach Tom Thibodeau in terms of their heart and competitive nature. Hopefully the team gets a healthy D Rose back next season and they can return to the perennial favorites that they were just a few years back.