The Wizards struck first against the Bulls in the best of seven first round series against the, taking Game One 102-93.
Washington shot 48.6 from the floor, outscoring the Bulls 30-18 in the fourth as Chicago could only muster just six points in the last six minutes.
The Bulls were completely taken out of their game, managing only 13 assists and being outrebounded 45-39. The Wizards also went to the line 35 times, converting 26, which is the same number of free throws the Bulls attempted.
Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin scored 16 apiece as seven Bulls finished in double figures in scoring.
“We just didn’t keep the intensity up,” Taj Gibson said. “They got some momentum and that really hurt. We also complained on some calls and we didn’t get back on defense. That hurt us. We had a chance to run away with it in the third and didn’t.”
The Wizards came out aggressive to begin the game with Nene setting the tone and helping Washington establish an edge in the free throw disparity. The Bulls found a rhythm in the second period, scoring 32 and taking advantage of Washington’s miscues from the line to lead 54-48 at the half.
Chicago started the third quarter with a 10-3 run, which gave them a 64-51 advantage, their biggest lead of the game. It would be short lived as Washington closed the quarter outscoring the Bulls 21-11 to close their deficit to 75-72 entering the fourth.
“If you let your guard down, the lead was gone very quickly,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We can’t allow frustration to get in the way of what we are trying to do. We have to play for 48 minutes. You look at everything in totality. You have to adjust to how the game is being called. But we can’t allow it to take away from our aggressiveness.”
The game went back and forth for the first part of the fourth thanks in large part to the two-man game of Nene and Andre Miller, who scored 14 between them in the period. A pair of Trevor Ariza free throws with 4:16 remaining gave the Wizards their first lead of the second half, and they would never look back as the Bulls shot 2-for-10 the final 5:11 of their fourth.
“We just missed shots,” said Jimmy Butler, who went an uncharacteristic 3-for-7 from the free throw line. Also, we can’t let them get as many offensive rebounds. We need to get back on defense better as well. All our mistakes that we made tonight are correctable. We have already started to talk about that. The refs had nothing to do with it. We just had to guard the ball and make shots. If we do that, and get back on defense and rebound, we’ll be fine.”
Nene led Washington with 24 points and eight rebounds. His physical defense on Noah –limiting the All-Star center’s vision of the court when the ball was in his hands – was just as impressive as the tone his offense set on a night the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal shot a combined 7-for-25.
“He’s a terrific player,” Thibodeau said. “He gets to his spots, he is very good. He is unselfish, makes plays, and plays away from the basket. If you allow him to get an open 15-foot shot, he will make that as well. Defensively, he pressures the ball, he’s got good hands. He played a very good game for them.”
They say the series never starts until the visiting team wins on the road. In that case, the Bulls better be ready to bounce back on Tuesday.