Playoffs D.C. Council Game 2: Wizards 101 at Bulls 99: Bulls Beal with Playoff Gutpunch
Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council: setting the scene, recapping key points, providing the analysis, evaluating players, and catching anything that you may have missed from the Washington Wizards. NBA Playoffs 2014, Round 1, Game No. 2: Wizards at Bulls; contributors: Conor Dirks, Rashad Mobley and Adam Rubin from the District.
Washington Wizards 101 at Chicago Bulls 99 (OT)
At the 6:48 mark of the fourth quarter, Martell Webster hit a 26-foot 3-pointer to cut Chicago’s lead to 87-80. The Bulls, who had led since the middle of the third, had not been able to extend their advantage beyond 10 points—and up to that point, the Wizards were not fluid enough on offense themselves to take advantage of Chicago’s lull. John Wall, on the next possession, missed two shots and then turned the ball over. The Bulls did not fare much better, as Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson picked up offensive fouls, and D.J. Augustin seemed to be cooling down after his torrid pace through the first three quarters (20 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go with five assists).
At the 4:48 mark—two minutes after Webster’s 3—the score hadn’t changed. Young Bradley Beal then decided to take the proverbial leap to the extra gear that special players seem to have.
Beal had nine points over the next four minutes and single-handedly erased the Bulls’ seven-point lead. He hit two 3-pointers, he hit a floater in the lane, and he drew a foul on Taj Gibson and hit one of two free throws. Not once did any doubt or lack of confidence from Game 1 come into play. Beal put the Wizards on his back and gave them a chance to win the game during five minutes of extra basketball.
Beal was scoreless during that overtime period, but the offensive aggressiveness of Nene and the hustle of Trevor Booker were enough to lead the Wizards to a 101-99 victory. Beal and his fourth-quarter heroics won the game on this night. Not even a Kirk Hinrich shove could derail that.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
Welcome to the playoffs, Brad. As described above, with Washington virtually left for dead, down 10 points in the fourth quarter, the second-year talent put the Wizards’ anemic offense on his back.
For an extended stretch in the fourth quarter Washington’s offense looked like #MaynorTime 2.0. Beal acted as a safety valve for Washington’s frantic offensive possessions, calmly hitting two 3-pointers and a feather soft runner in the lane to pull Washington within one with 1:23 remaining in regulation.
Almost as important, Beal (along with Trevor Ariza) deserves credit for shutting down D.J. Augustin down the stretch. Augustin routinely embarrassed John Wall en route to 25 points, as he toyed with the Wizards’ guard in the pick-and-roll. Augustin did hit a couple shots on Beal, but a good portion of the blame falls on Trevor Booker & Co. for failing to contain Augustin when Wall and Beal went over the top of picks. In any event, Washington seemed to crack the Augustin code during crunch time, and that forced Chicago into some ugly offensive possessions.
Most impressive was Beal’s cool, calm demeanor throughout the entire game. Beal silenced any fears of a Chicago Game 2 rout with a 3-pointer one minute after tip-off and laughed off Hinrich’s attempts to rattle the young guard with some extracurricular shoving. In fact, during his post-game interview with Tracy Wolfson just seconds after finishing a 42-minute overtime effort, Beal did not appear to have even broken a sweat during the game.
—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)
It falls to me, then, to veto a participant in a Wizards playoff win. It is, due to its incongruence with the exciting outcome, an unenviable task.
Hammers, even Polish ones, are useful tools when used correctly, but poor aim (perhaps via playoff nerves, or more likely via Taj Gibson’s verve) can leave a finger or two broken over the course of a playoff series. Marcin Gortat was asked to do some uncomfortable things on Tuesday night, and he looked uncomfortable attempting to do them on his way to a seven-point, five-rebound evening.
After receiving the ball just outside the paint on a handoff from a stonewalled Trevor Ariza, Gortat fired up his first shot, a fading jumper. It missed. The next shot was from the same side of the floor, this time on the baseline, and while Gortat reversed his lean, instead angling forward, the result was the same: a badly missed shot. In transition, Gortat received the ball too soon and at full speed—an unfavorable launch which resulted in an ill-starred layup attempt.
Gortat will be the first one to admit that Taj Gibson got the better of him. Gibson was the instantiation of the fabled Bulls intensity, and he bushwhacked the routinely well-oiled Polish Machine.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
In a minor upset, Trevor Booker wrestled the Top Aide away from Nene. Nene was the better player—especially given his six unanswered points to start overtime—but Booker played an invaluable role in the improbable comeback win. Booker’s job in this series is to match the intensity of Chicago’s bigs and keep them off the offensive glass. Booker failed miserably at that task in Game 1. Game 2 was a different story. Booker’s energy and hustle were especially needed Tuesday night because the man he replaced—Marcin Gortat—struggled mightily on offense (although, to his credit, several of his misses were blown calls) and repeatedly failed to stay in front of Noah and Boozer on defense. Gortat was tattooed to the bench for much of the fourth quarter and all of overtime.
As a result, Booker played all of the fourth quarter and overtime and was a maniac in the paint. He bodied up Taj Gibson, disrupted interior passes and chased down loose balls. He even hit two free throws with under a minute remaining in overtime to help secure the win. The entire fourth quarter felt like a rugby scrum and Booker was in the middle of most of it.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Booker’s cringe-worthy and highly ill-advised baseline jumper with 2:05 remaining in regulation when the Wizards were down 91-88 and desperately needed a basket. You know what, f*** it, I’ll be remiss. Let’s pretend that shot never happened. Booker hustled his ass of in Game 2 and deserves a baseline jumper every now and then.
—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)
That Session Was … Playoff Validation, Homecourt Vexation
The series is far from over, as the 2005 Bulls (who beat the Wizards in Games 1 and 2 but lost Games 3 through 6) will tell you. But despite the unremitting presence of these continuing games, the Chicago bias which existed before the series has been firmly, and probably irrevocably, shattered.
There were several valid reasons for expecting the Bulls to win this series, none more valid than the strength of their defense. Fundamentally, though, much of the disconnect between what non-Wizards writers (some TAI writers, including myself, picked the Wizards to win the series) expected out of these games and what has actually occurred so far is due to the lack of accessible information out there regarding who, or what, the Wizards are. Those who watched 82 games of this team had the opportunity to see see the faint welts of ley lines under the smeared graffiti of this season’s history, but was it really fair to expect the rest of the NBA to read between those lines?
The Bulls are a known value. The Wizards, on the other hand, spent the entire season dodging definition, identity, and even reason. Are they a young team? Well, sorta, but over the course of the year, they became more veteran than young (Wall, Beal, and Booker are the only three “young” players who see the court). Are they a good team? Well, yeah, but they were also a bad one, a mediocre one, an exciting one, and a boring one. Does this make any sense?
When you see Bradley Beal fighting through bigger bodies on his way to securing the rebound of his own shot, and you see John Wall harassing opposing players as they attempt to enjoy the traditional quietude of bringing the ball up the court, you realize that this Wizards team might finally be on its way to the identity they’ve lacked. It might be temporary, and eventually it might not be strong enough to overcome a team that has more talent, but the Bulls do not have more talent than the Wizards without Rose or Deng. Chicago’s incredible regular season is over, and the Wizards have endangered this species of postseason Bull as well.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
Coach Wittman’s main objective in between Game 1 and 2 was to ensure that Bradley Beal and John Wall still had their confidence intact, despite their performances in the Wizards’ win on Sunday night. They shot a combined 7-for-25 from the field, and Wall was benched in favor of Andre Miller at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Although the Wizards were able to lean heavily on Nene, Wittman had to know that in Game 2, Nene-related adjustments would be made and his two young stars would be relied upon to carry the Wizards to victory.
Wall and Beal were nothing but confident in the first quarter of play, and they combined for 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting. For the game they shot just 15-for-35 (43%) but they combined for 12 rebounds, nine assists and five steals. After the game, Wittman said his advice to his young stars was quite simple:
“I always tell our guys, if you’re taking the right shots I never worry, make or miss. And you gotta make sure you continue to take that shot—take it with confidence. And he (Beal) was very confident tonight, he stayed aggressive, even through some misses. I told both those young guys yesterday on our day off, I want you guys to coming out playing with great confidence, I don’t want to see any hesitation.”
Wittman’s other key chess move was to sit Marcin Gortat during the last five minutes of regulation and again in overtime. Gortat had an uneven night scoring and rebounding (two points and seven rebounds in 37 minutes), so when Trevor Booker—who had been uneven offensively all night himself—started grabbing seemingly every loose rebound (and more importantly, slowed Taj Gibson from doing the same), Gortat’s services were not needed for the remainder of the evening. Wittman gambled on a similar move by playing Miller in favor of Wall in Game 1, and it worked for him again last night.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
2 out of 5 stars
43 min | plus-5 | 16 pts | 6-15 FGs | 3-5 FTs | 5 reb | 7 asts | 3 stls | 5 TOs
For the second game in a row, Wall took a backseat to a more prolific teammate and played the role of facilitator when the game mattered. In the first half, Wall controlled the pace, got where he wanted on the floor, and made six of his first 10 shots. Most importantly, he single-handedly quelled the Bulls second-quarter momentum by scoring or assisting on the Wizards’ last seven points of the half to increase their lead from one to seven points.
In the second half, Wall scored just two points, he picked up four fouls in the third quarter, and he could not keep D.J. Augustin out of the paint. He did come around to hit two big free throws in overtime to extend the Wizards’ lead from four to six points with 42 seconds left, but he gave those points right back to Chicago after committing a pushing foul on Augustin, which eventually led to two Noah free throws.
Ultimately, the playoffs are about surviving and advancing, and the Wizards survived another close game and are now two wins away from advancing. Nene and Beal have carried Washington in the first two games, and eventually Wall will be asked to the same—if so, he’ll have to do a more consistent job of getting into the paint while keeping Augustin out of it. —R. Mobley
5 out of 5 stars
42 mins| minus-1 | 26 pts | 9-20 FGs | 4-7 3PT | 4-5 FTs | 7 rebs | 2 asts | 2 stl | 2 TOs
Poise counts! Young Brad was just having fun out there. That’s exactly what you want to see from a 20-year-old in a hostile environment going up against a Chicago team that was playing for its playoff life. Beal’s Game 2 essence is further captured above.
Beal also gets credit for introducing me to my neighbor who pounded on my door at midnight asking me and my friends to stop shouting. I explained that it was overtime and we’ll do our best. —A. Rubin
4 out of 5 stars
42 mins | plus-12 | 8 pts | 3-8 FGs | 2-6 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 8 rebs | 7 asts | 1 TO
To focus on Ariza’s trivial point total alone would be pettifogging of the highest order. Never ostentatious even when brilliant, Ariza was, again, the factotum, the gap-filler, the polymath that ensured the Wizards had what they needed, when they needed it. In the two playoff wins, Ariza has in many ways been the oft-limelighted glue that is eventually labeled as such when all other labels fail.
Ariza’s seven assists were tied for the best on the team, but he also led the team in hockey assists (two) and free throw assists (two). His eight rebounds were also tied for the best on the team (with Trevor Booker).
With D.J. Augustin (25 points) emerging as the most dangerous Bulls scorer in the game, Randy Wittman entrusted Sir Hookah with the mark. All Ariza did was shut Augustin down, finally, holding Chicago’s annoyingly effective backup point guard to 0-for-3 shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a well-defended miss that would have put Chicago ahead 93-91 with 15 seconds remaining. —C. Dirks
4 out of 5 stars
39 min | minus-2 | 17 pts | 8-13 FGs | 1-4 FTs | 7 reb | 3 asts | 1 stl | 1 blk| 6 PFs
It wasn’t as if Nene had a bad game through the first four quarters of play, he just wasn’t as aggressive as he’d been in Game 1—partly because Joakim Noah was much more active on the offensive side of the ball, and partly because Nene was content to let the game come to him. If the shot was there he took it, and if it wasn’t he’d get the ball to Wall or Beal and let them dictate how the offense would function for the remainder of the shot clock. That’s part of what makes Nene such an effective offensive player. He can set picks, he can pass, he’s physical and he knows when how to take his foot on and off the pedal.
When the overtime period started, Nene seemed to place his deferential tendencies aside and called for the damn ball. He scored six points in the first two and a half minutes—four points came via face-up jumpers and for the other two he decided to go the dunk route. It felt like Nene was simply waiting for Noah to tire himself out after four quarters so he could pounce in the last stanza. Thirty-nine minutes is a bit of a concern, but that’s nothing that two and a half days of rest and a raucous Verizon Center crowd cannot cure. —R. Mobley
1 out of 5 stars
37 mins| minus-10 | 7 pts | 2-9 FGs | 3-6 FTs | 5 rebs | 2 blk | 2 stl | 2 TOs
Let’s not dwell too much on a really bad game from Gortat, at least not more than we already have above, where Gortat was met with the ignominious veto after receiving similar treatment from coach Randy Wittman. A benching in a win will be shrugged off by the circumspect Gortat, and having escaped overtime intact, the Wizards will go back to him on Friday as if none of this ever happened. —C. Dirks
5 out of 5 stars
27 mins| plus-10 | 9 pts | 3-4 FGs | 3-4 FTs | 8 rebs | 1 asts | 1 blk | 0 TOs
I am all-in on Booker’s Game 2 performance. He did everything that he didn’t do in Game 1. As has been said ad nauseam, Chicago has only one advantage in this series (hustle), and Booker is the only player on Washington’s bench that can temper that advantage. Booker answered the call Tuesday night.—A. Rubin
3 out of 5 stars
21 min | minus-7 | 10 pts | 4-6 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 1 reb | 1 asts | 2 stls | 1blk
In the fourth quarter of the Indiana Pacers’ blowout win over the Atlanta Hawks, there were basically just bench players in the game, and TNT analyst Chris Webber mentioned how important this time was for these players to establish some offensive rhythm just in case they were needed for Game 3. This same theory applies to Martell Webster’s Game 2 performance against the Bulls.
Seven of Webster’s 10 points came in the second quarter when the Wizards were spectators to the dominance of Taj Gibson and D.J. Augustin. But unlike Game 1, when Webster was gimpy and only hit one 3-pointer, he seemed much more active on both ends the floor, and he shot an efficient 4-for-6 from the field. He’s primed to do even more in Game 3. —R. Mobley
1 out of 5 stars
9 mins| minus-3 | 8 pts | 3-5 FGs | 0-1 3PT | 2-4 FTs | 2 asts | 1 rebs | 1 TOs
The Professor was on hiatus in Game 2. Miller was a fourth quarter spark plug in Game 1 but on Tuesday night he just looked a step slow. OK, he always looks a step slow. But he didn’t bring any of his rec league magic against Augustin. He got trapped a couple times on offense and was not able to find cutters for his usual rabbit-out-of-a-hat assists. That, and a couple embarrassing layup attempts, earns him a one-star rating. —A. Rubin
INC out of 5 stars
2 mins | 1 PF
After a very effective game from Trevor Booker, it’s time to put a burlap sack over your regular season nostalgia for Drew Gooden, lead it into the woods, spin it around three times, release twenty pigeons to create a disorienting cacophony, and peel out in a pickup truck with a decal picturing Booker pissing on a smoldering meteor fixed to the cab window. —C. Dirks
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