If you were to tell me that the Washington Wizards would have a chance to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs prior to the beginning of the regular season, I wouldn’t have believed you. Well, after Sunday nights victory over the Chicago Bulls in the nation’s capital, the Wizards are now leading the series 3-1 and have a shot at advancing on Tuesday at Chicago. The game will tip off at 8:00pm EST.
- Nene was suspended for Game 4 after headbutting Jimmy Butler, but he’ll be back in the lineup on Tuesday. Washington gained a 20 point advantage over the Bulls on Sunday despite Nene’s absence and I think they’ve established themselves as the better team through four games.
- The Wizards are 5-0 when leading the series 3-1. Chicago is 0-8 when down 1-3.
- Trevor Ariza scored 30 points, a playoff career high, against Chicago on Sunday. He also held Mike Dunleavy to just 6 points after he scored 35 on Friday.
- Taj Gibson scored 32 points on 13-16 shooting off the bench on Sunday. Without Nene on the floor, Gibson was able to get whatever he wanted inside. That’s going to have to change on Tuesday.
Key Match Up:
Joakim Noah‘s presence defensively has certainly been felt throughout the series, but I don’t think anybody expected Nene to get the best of him, especially since he was coming off a long layoff following a sprained MCL. Washington has been able to stay afloat with Nene out of the lineup, but it’s no question that they’re a better team when he’s on the floor. The Wizards still secured the ‘W’ in Game 4, but they’ll need Nene to close out the series, especially on the defensive side of the floor.
When Nene has been active, the Wizards have consistently looked for him in the post when being defended by Noah. Nene has given Noah fits throughout his entire career and I believe he has a significant advantage. Noah is the Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s deserving, but I’m not sure he’s accustomed to defending versatile, skilled bigs like Nene. Before the playoffs began, I said the outcome of the Wizards/Bulls series may be determined by the bigs, and so far, Washington’s front court has outplayed Chicago’s.
I’m interested to see how Nene begins the game right out of the gate, because if Game 5 is anything like the three prior playoff games Nene’s been in, Washington will look for him early.