If you told me at the beginning of the year that not only would the Wizards get into the playoffs, but that they would also win the first round I would laugh in your face. If you told me they would beat Chicago in a one-sided 5 game series, I’d spit my orange juice in your face and tell you to rip up your friendship card. I don’t associate with liars.
However, the Wizards have surpassed many people’s expectations. Although several sports anchors and sport enthusiasts actually predicted the Wizards had a good chance at earning a spot in the playoffs, I couldn’t take them seriously. After all, this is Washington we’re talking about. This city has suffered plenty in terms of the success of its professional sports teams. Let’s not forget that the Nationals and Capitols are damn good teams, but I’ve never seen a game of hockey in my life and I’m just recently becoming a fan of “America’s favorite pastime”.
Let’s talk numbers. This marks the first time the Wizards have won a series since 2005. Aaah yes, what a great year that was. I was a puny high school freshman with nappy hair, crooked glasses, pleated khaki pants, and hush puppy dress shoes. What’s that you ask? Oh no, we didn’t have uniforms, I just liked dressing like a target for senior asskickings.
But I digress. The Wizards, equally staffed with youth and veteran talent, were led by the athletic point guard John Wall and second year man Bradley Beal. Wall came into the series finishing second in the league with 8.8 assists per game and a commendable 19.3 points per game. His numbers dipped ever so slightly to 18.8 and 6.8 during the playoff series. Beal complimented nicely with an average of 17.1 points per game in the regular season and 19.8 in this series. It’s no wonder some see Beal and Wall as one of the best backcourt duos in the game.
The story of game 1 was Nene’s excellent veteran play. With 24 points and 8 boards, the Brazilian played a significant role in the first game. The proud Wizards fought to overcome a 13 point deficit in the third quarter and outscored the Bulls 18-6 in the final 6 minutes of the 4th quarter. Game 2 was a nail-biter to say the least. It was the young Bradley Beal who shined this time finishing with 26 points with 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Washington should thank the usually consistent Kirk Hinrich because his 2 missed free throws at the end of the OT period helped secure the second victory in the series. However, the Wizards’ momentum was temporarily halted after dropping game 3 at home. Chicago’s 3-point marksman Mike Dunleavy torched the helpless Wizards as he knocked down 8 deep balls and finished with 35 points. John Wall did what he could, adding 23 points and 7 assists. Nene uncharacteristically let his emotions get the best of him. He got into a ramming match with Jimmy “Not-A-Sucka” Butler (no one calls him that but I’m trying to get it started). Nene’s headbutt and neck grabbing incident would cost him as he was ejected and missed the final 8.5 minutes of the deciding fourth quarter.
Washington came back in game 4 without their big man, Nene, who was suspended one game for his altercation with Butler. The 9-year veteran, Trevor Ariza, stepped up big time in Washington scoring 30 points and grabbing 8 boards. Taj Gibson’s career high of 32 points was not enough as his struggling team only managed to shoot 22-62 (no that’s not a typo). Washington played great team ball and it was hard to notice that their starting power forward was not on the floor. The Wizards, up 3-1, went to Chicago to take game 5. Wall, Nene, and Beal tallied 24, 20, and 17 points (respectively) to secure the victory and the series. The Bulls’ super athletic Taj Gibson went down in the fourth quarter after coming down awkwardly on his left ankle. The Wizards outrebounded the Bulls 15-8 in the final quarter and it was these second chances that allowed them to secure the victory over the heavily favored Bulls.
Looking back, the young and talented Washington Wizards were able to defeat the Bulls with hustle, excellent shooting, and rebounding (yes the Bulls were outhustled and outrebounded). The Bulls, known for their scrappiness and tough defense had no answer for Washington. Although the 5 games were close, Chicago lacked a true scorer. It must have been painful for Derrick Rose to watch his team put up a valiant but failing effort against these sharpshooting Wiz Kids. Looking forward, the Wizards will either face the Atlanta Hawks or the Indiana Pacers in the next round. I honestly would like to see the Hawks pull off the upset over Indiana. The Wizards have gone 2-1 in the regular season against the overachieving Atlanta Hawks and only 1-2 against the towering and inconsistent Pacers. Rest up Washington, the next round in our run for a second NBA championship will not come easy!