After being down by double-digits late in the third quarter, the Washington Wizards rallied behind Nene and Andre Miller, subsequently retaking the lead in the fourth quarter. The Chicago Bulls’ offensive struggles have been well documented, and thankfully for Washington, their offense collapsed when they needed it most. Joakim Noah was neutralized by Nene, who scored 24 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in 35 minutes. Nene is still on a minutes limit, and though he looked as fresh as ever throughout the course of the game, I’m not too sure he’ll be happy about playing over his restriction.
Marcin Gortat put up a double-double of his own, scoring 15 points to go along side 13 rebounds. Perhaps the biggest bucket of the game occurred when Gortat scored an offensive put-back following a John Wall missed jump shot, which put the Bulls away in the game. Gortat has been a lot better defensively than expected this season, and he continued to protect the rim tonight, as he stopped D.J. Augustin and Jimmy Butler on the drive on multiple occasions down the stretch.
John Wall and Bradley Beal made just 7 of 25 combined shots, and there’s no doubt that the game would’ve gotten out of hand for Washington had the big men not stopped the scoring droughts in the third quarter. The Wizards were down by double-digits, but Andre Miller’s 10 points in 14 minutes off the bench helped Washington cut into the deficit. Nene and Miller played a bit of a two-man game, as Nene looked for him off the ball, taking advantage of his size against Augustin. Miller played the majority of the fourth quarter over John Wall, and even though some fans were inevitably complaining, I honestly didn’t mind the change by coach Randy Wittman. Simply put, when someone has the “hot hand”, you have to continue utilizing it.
There were times where the Wizards could’ve hung their heads, but they continued to fight and eventually took the series lead on the road in a very hostile environment. Washington hasn’t gotten to the free throw line much this season, but they accepted contact tonight and got to the line 35 times.
Washington played their first game on national television in about four years and to do it in this fashion is an incredible step forward. Wall and Beal didn’t shoot the ball well, and they’ll eventually knock down shots, but the Wizards remained resilient and chipped away at a lead that could’ve gotten ugly.
The Wizards will be back at it on Tuesday night in Chicago.