Prior to last night’s game in Chicago, a lot of NBA pundits thought the Bulls would run right through the Washington Wizards during the first game of the series. Needless to say, they did not.
Washington’s first field goal came in the form of a pick and roll, as Nene flew right by Carlos Boozer for an emphatic dunk. Joakim Noah‘s successful NBA season has been well documented, but I have no doubt that people overlooked Washington’s big men, more specifically Nene.
Nene came off the bench after returning from a two month layoff due to a sprained MCL, but Randy Wittman opted to slide him back into the starting lineup. Some people complained about Wittman’s decision to bring him back to the starting lineup, since no one expected him to play over 30 minutes last night, but it turned out to be a great coaching move.
Most people thought Joakim Noah would be the game-changer in the series, but Nene has dominated the Bulls in the past, putting up nearly 25 points per 36 minutes in the last four meetings against Chicago.
He continued to have his way against Noah and the Bulls, scoring 24 points to go along side 8 rebounds on 11-17 shooting from the field. Chicago seemed content with letting him take outside shots, something he’s drastically improved on this season, and he knocked the shots down with ease. Washington ran post up plays for Nene all night long, and once he started scoring over Joakim Noah, it opened up looks for Andre Miller and Marcin Gortat off the ball.
Washington’s frontcourt has been amongst the best this season, but they haven’t gotten the fanfare Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer or even Taj Gibson got. Bluntly put, Nene and Marcin Gortat deserve more credit than they got throughout the regular season. Washington won two of their three games against Chicago during the season with Nene in the lineup, and judging from the amount of recognition Nene got for his performance against the Bulls last night, it looks like people are finally starting to realize that the Wizards vs. Bulls series will be a lot more competitive than originally though.
Game 2 will take place on Tuesday night in Chicago. Can Nene have repeat performance?