It was a horrible case of déjà vu for the Bulls as the Washington Wizards took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with an 101-99 overtime victory.
Like in Game One, the Bulls were able to build a double-digit lead (10 in the fourth) – 13 in the third in Game One – only to seemingly run out of gas to close the game. Up 87-77, the Bulls went the final 6:26 minutes missing seven of their next eight attempts and committed 4 turnovers.
After being awarded a jumpball by officials, after Taj Gibson dived upon a loose ball, screaming for a timeout as Nene came in to try and tie the ball up, the Wizards gained possession with eight seconds remaining and had a chance to win it in regulation, but Bradley Beal’s fallaway jumper back-rimmed.
Washington started the overtime period on a 6-0 run before the Bulls tightened things up defensively to give themselves a chance towards the end. With just two seconds remaining, Kirk Hinrich had a chance to tie the game at 101 at the line, but his first free throw back-rimmed and he had to intentionally miss the second, which the Wizards were able to corral.
“Hard fought,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of his thoughts on the game. “They got to some loose balls that resulted into some open three’s and we didn’t. “We dug ourselves a big hole early and expended a lot of energy to get out of that hole… came up short.”
The loss wasted playoff career-highs in points from both Taj Gibson (22 points, 10 rebounds, nine offensive, 3 blocks) and D.J. Augustin (25 points, 4-for-8 shooting from 3), who scored all the Bulls points off the bench. Joakim Noah added 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots on the night where he was presented the Defensive Player of the Year award by four-time winner Dikembe Mutombo.
“It sucks,” said Joakim Noah. “I hate losing. Everyone on this team is giving everything that they have. I feel like they hit big shot after big shot. You have to give credit where credit is due. They’re playing at a high level. Throughout the year, it hasn’t been pretty at times. But we’re a team that finds a way.”
The Bulls were hoping to come out and hit the Wizards first in the start of this one, but found themselves unable to avoid Washington’s jabs as the Wizards raced out to an early 17-point lead in the first quarter, causing Thibodeau to even break his rotation early.
They were able to battle their way back into the game in the second and dominated the Wizards in the third, holding them to just 14 points on 40 percent shooting. Then, just as he did in the first, Beal got hot in the fourth for Washington, scoring 11 of his game-high 26 as the Wizards were able to slow Augustin by placing the bigger and longer Trevor Ariza on him, who guarded him to close the fourth and in the extra period.
“It was tough to score on him because he’s 6’8,” Augustin said. “Even to get open [was difficult].”
Nothing will be more difficult than trying to be just the fourth team in NBA history to pull a series out after being down two games. Making it even tougher is how poised the Wizards have been in dealing with late double-digit deficits in rallying to win; something they struggled with during the season.
“The fourth quarter and overtime are going to be different,” Thibodeau said. “The intensity of the game changes during that time. You got to be ready to respond, screen better, make quick decisions. We got to make plays.
“We had the lead in both fourth quarters, we didn’t close it out. In the playoffs, you got to play for 48 minutes.”