POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 21, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 2:27 a.m. HST, Apr 21, 2014
CHICAGO » Nene started thinking about how it would all unfold in the middle of the night. No way could he have scripted it any better than this.
Nene dominated with 24 points, Trevor Ariza scored 18, and the Washington Wizards rallied from 13 down to beat the Chicago Bulls 102-93 in their playoff opener on Sunday night.
John Wall scored 16 in his postseason debut. Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and the fifth-seeded Wizards pulled out the victory even though they looked like they were ready to be blown out.
They cut a 13-point deficit to one in the third and trailed by three going into the fourth before outscoring Chicago 18-6 over the final six minutes to come out on top in their first playoff appearance since 2008.
“We had a team dinner, and after that, in the middle of the night I started thinking about what I’m going to do,” Nene said. “How I’m going to defend. ... Things like that. It’s a good feeling.”
Nene was locked in from the opening tip, dunking on the game’s first possession and scoring eight points in the first six minutes, and the Wizards turned it on down the stretch.
Gortat’s layup started the decisive run, and Ariza gave the Wizards an 88-87 lead when he hit a pair of free throws with 4:17 remaining. Jimmy Butler tied it for Chicago with one of his own, but a layup by Gortat and basket by Nene made it 92-88, and Washington hung on after Chicago’s Joakim Noah cut it to two on a tip-in with 2:11 left.
Gortat hit two free throws and added a jumper with 34 seconds left to make it a six-point game, and the Wizards took the early lead in the best-of-seven series.
Washington shot 49 percent and outrebounded Chicago 45-39, with Nene setting the tone inside. He hit 11 of 17 shots and grabbed eight rebounds.
Andre Miller came on strong down the stretch, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth, and the Wizards pulled this one out even though Wall and Bradley Beal (13 points) combined to shoot just 7-for-25.
Andrew Seligman, Associated Press