Playoffs D.C. Council Game 3: Wizards 97 vs Bulls 100: Nene’s Temper a Killer in Another Thriller
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. 3: Wizards vs Bulls; contributors: Kyle Weidie and Rashad Mobley from the Verizon Center, and Sean Fagan from Brooklyn.
Washington Wizards 97 at Chicago Bulls 100
Whatever you want to point to, you can point to. Washington bobbled the ball out of bounds, down three points with three seconds left and at the opposite end from their basket. Game over. But yea, they wouldn’t have gotten there had John Wall not drawn a crazy foul on a desperate three-quarter-court shot just before that (something that Tom Thibodeau afterward said should have called been a loose-ball foul), which led to a Taj Gibson missed free throw, which didn’t end up mattering.
What else? There was Nene’s ejection early in the fourth and continued questionable calls from the referees against both teams (at theme from Games 1 and 2). Wall missed two free throws with 1:27 left and the game tied at 91. Then there was Mike Dunleavy’s historical, 35-point, eight 3-pointer performance for which the Wizards seemed to try to adjust against after intermission. It certainly didn’t work with Dunleavy scoring 19 of his points in the second half—it was a coaching counter-punch for Thibodeau to find Swiss cheese holes in Washington’s defense with an unexpected player.
These tit-for-tat instances created the ebb and flow of what we call playoff basketball—physical, controversial, and nerve-racking. But it came down to a couple simple basketball plays made by a Bull even more unexpected than Dunleavy (after all, everyone knew that Dunleavy could shoot going into the night).
Jimmy Butler had been 0-for-4 from 3-point land over Games 1 and 2, and rounding out the regular season April slate for Chicago (eight games), he was 10-for-36 from deep (.278).
On Friday night, Butler scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth period. At the exact moments that Chicago needed a chop to Washington’s neck, he was there. Perhaps propelled by Nene’s ejection, Butler scored the first points after his skirmish with Nene was reviewed, a 3-pointer as Martell Webster went behind the screen to put the Bulls up 81-76. And even though Butler missed a shot after a dramatic Bradley Beal 5-0 run gave the Wizards a 91-89 lead, he later came back and hit a dagger 3-pointer to break a 91-all tie with 24 seconds left—Beal had gone under the screen this time, but that was how the Wizards were supposed to guard a non-3-point shooter.
Butler made the plays. And for that, despite all the extra curricular activity, the Wizards should tip their hats to the Bulls for the good game and look forward to Game 4.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
This was John Wall’s moment to seize. Nene led the Wizards to victory in Game 1, Beal led the troops in Game 2, which meant Wall—in Washington’s first home playoff game in six years—had to energize the crowd and lead his team to victory.
Wall set the tone in the first quarter with 11 points, three assists and two steals. He scored on a breakaway dunk, he hit a 27-foot 3-pointer, and he toyed with Kirk Hinrich on both ends of the floor. More importantly, after each of these basketball plays, Wall made it his business—via his demonstrative body language—to pump up himself, his teammates, and the frenzied fans in Verizon Center.
He was (too) quiet in the second and third quarters, but when he checked back into the game with 7:48 left in the fourth quarter, Wall was instrumental in shrinking the Bulls’ lead from seven points to one. He found Ariza for a layup, he stole the ball from Mike Dunleavy, and, just as he had in the opening quarter, he continued to pump up the fans and his teammates. Beal scored more points, and Ariza and Gortat had more rebounds, but Wall was the emotional leader in an emotional home game. And when asked about what went wrong in his postgame presser, it was Wall who stepped up to take full responsibility the way a franchise player should:
“I just didn’t do a great job of getting my team moving in the third quarter … the changing point in the game to me, basically, was when we was up nine, I didn’t do a great job of getting the ball moving and running a lot of the plays, and the ball just got stagnant.”
Is accountability in a loss better than a win? Absolutely not. But Wall got the crowd lathered up, played well (missed free throws and a mid-game disappearance prevented him from being great) and took full responsibility for the loss after the game. That’s what is expected of franchise players, and Wall delivered. He’s your game MVP.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
The veteran trio of Nene, Andre Miller and Drew Gooden came up short on Friday night. Nene was thrown out of the game, but prior to that he scored just 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting and the Bulls frontline successfully flustered him. Andre miller, who looked so crafty and spry in Game 1, was tentative and slow in Game 3, and was unable to exploit D.J. Augustin who had an equally frustrating game (4-for-15 from the field). And Drew Gooden, who could was instant offense late in the regular season, played five minutes and only mustered an offensive rebound with zero shot attempts. Poor Al Harrington played just eight seconds, and did not even get the opportunity to reverse the trend.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
Trevor Ariza. You can’t ask for much more than what he has already done in this series. Asked to check D.J. Augustin after both Wall and Beal proved unable rise to the task and Ariza shut down the diminutive guard when the Wizards absolutely need stops. Suck down rebounds like a Hoover? Well, Ariza pulled down 11 on the night along with two steals and a block. Foremost, Ariza was one of the few Wizards (aside from Marcin Gortat) who didn’t appear to come completely unraveled after Nene’s untimely exit from the game.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
That Session Was … Ill-Advised
After the Wizards lost to the San Antonio Spurs on November 14, Nene voiced his frustration regarding what he perceived to be the immaturity of the Wizards’ young players:
“We still think about stats. Our young guys must take their heads out their butts and play the right way, because I’m getting tired of this.”
Last night against the Bulls, with 8:28 left in the game, Nene allowed his frustration over the lack of calls, combined with the overflow of emotions in a tense moment, to get the better of him. At the time of his ejection, Nene had just made a fastbreak layup to cut the Bulls’ lead to two points and the momentum had shifted in the Wizards’ favor. After the technical, the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler played inspired ball, Coach Wittman had to play Trevor Booker (too small) and Drew Gooden (too cold) in Nene’s stead, and they simply were not as effective.
Nene is a man of God and a veteran and for those reasons—fair or not—more is expected from him, and he failed his team on Friday night. His one-game suspension could quite possibly cost his team the series, and he may never live that down.
In his postgame mea culpa, Nene was not at all apologetic and more focused playing the “right way”once again:
“You can’t control when you play physical, things get hot. It’s over. The whole team is thinking about Game 4 and stepping up for real in a big series. It’s good to be back playing where we play, defend the way we defend. The intensity is going to be [high], every game is going to be hard… You need to move [on], that’s what I’m doing. Now we need to come here [and] play the right [way] in Game 4 and forget about what happened. It’s all I can do, control what I can control.”
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
Coach Wittman’s main objective in between Game 1 and 2 was to ensure that Bradley Beal and John Wall still had confidence.
Randy Wittman didn’t seem as frustrated or concerned or worried during his postgame news conference. Can’t get too high, can’t get too low, and that is especially true in the playoffs. He knew that his team had been beat, fair and square. On to the next one.
If Wittman did have one beef, however, and it was with his squad’s defense.
“We had more blown assignments defensively tonight—I think we’ll see after we break down this game—than we did combined in the first two games,” said the coach after the game as his initial point. “We didn’t have that same focus from a defensive know-how.”
“At shoot-around today, we wasn’t locked in like we was in the first two games,” said John Wall when asked what happened. “We made mistakes in shoot-around, and wasn’t really locked in like we was the first two games. So whatever we did on the road, you basically got to do at home to make sure you’re locked-in and prepare yourself for each game.”
Maybe Wittman exposed some coaching chops in the first two games. Maybe he got out-coached a tad in Game 3. Maybe, when it comes to keeping his players focused at home, he’s working against something.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
3 out of 5 stars
37 mins | plus-6 | 23 pts | 7-14 FGs | 1-2 3Ps | 8-12 FTs | 7 asts | 1 TO | 4 stls | 2 rebs
Tonight was John Wall’s turn at the roulette wheel and for a majority of the game it looked like he was going to take his place alongside Nene and Bradley Beal as the Wizards hero du jour. Unfortunately, superstars are judged on a separate grading curve than mere mortals and it will be Wall’s missed free throws that will be remembered and not his superlative play in the first half, nor his work in the latter part of the fourth quarter through pell mell drives that will be remembered. There is no “LeBron whispering to Gilbert” at the free throw line moment to be discussed, but if the Wizards somehow manage to do the improbable and kick this series down the drainpipe, it will be remembered as the “series of missed free throws” and Wall’s clangers will stand foremost among them. —S. Fagan
4 out of 5 stars
39 mins | minus-4 | 25 pts | 8-18 FGs | 3-6 3Ps | 6-7 FTs | 4 rebs | 5 asts | 0 TOs
Poise counts! Young Bradley Beal had a tough matchup against the taller Mike Dunleavy and paid the price. But he did the best to counter punch. He scored six points in the first quarter, six in the second, none in the third, but 13 in the fourth. Early in the game, he sure did take what the defense gave him a couple times, once hitting smooth, midrange baseline jumper, wide-open. Early on, Beal also displayed his improved pick-and-roll ball handling—while not wholly noticeable, he’s progressed since the beginning of this season. Over a three-minute stretch late in the game, Beal scored nine of Washington’s 12 points (to just four for the Bulls; Wall scored the other three), but could not hit a big 3-pointer with 1:55 left that would’ve given Washington a 94-89 lead. Stil, playoff Beal is real. —K. Weidie
2 out of 5 stars
40 mins | plus-11| 16 pts | 7-16 FG | 2-6 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 11 rebs | 2 stl | 2 TOs
Much like John Wall, Ariza started off the game with a purpose (11 points and five rebounds in the first half), and then disappeared in the second half of play (five points and six rebounds). He did reprise his role as the D.J. Augustin-stopper, and he played a significant hand in holding him to a 4-for-15 shooting night. But he (along with Bradley Beal) allowed Mike Dunleavy to get his shot off at will, and during key possessions in the fourth quarter, the poor floor spacing between Ariza and Marcin Gortat was the culprit for at least two disjointed offensive possessions. I think we can blame TAI’s Conor Dirks for having the gall to write this piece just a few hours before the game. —R. Mobley
1 out of 5 stars
29 min | minus-10 | 10 pts | 5-15 FGs | 4 rebs | 3 asts | 2 stls | 1 ejection
Nene’s ejection was clearly the biggest and most controversial moment of Game 3, but as John Wall correctly observed in his postgame speech, that was not the reason the Wizards lost the game. They had opportunities to win the game in the last minute, but missed free throws, threw errant passes, and their inability to stop Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler were too much to overcome. But even before the ejection, Nene was ineffective in the post—partly because of Noah’s renewed commitment on the defensive end of the floor, and partly because the referees seemed to be content with letting the Bulls foul Nene sans accountability. By the time Jimmy Butler played the role of agitator, Nene had built up plenty of angst due to the lack of calls and allowed his emotional cup to spilleth over, but that’s something a veteran who’s allegedly schooled in the trade of playing the “right way” simply should not do. —R. Mobley
4 out of 5 stars
38 mins| plus-6 | 13 pts | 6-12 FGs | 1-2 FTs | 11 rebs | 2 asts | 3 blks
Gortat wasn’t a dominant force, but on a night when the defensive player of the year, Joakim Noah, scored just six points with nine rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, and six personal fouls, a stat line like Gortat’s is more than appreciated. Defensively, Gortat was asked to do a very difficult job, especially in the second half. Often times, when the screening action in his area, Gortat was having to help off Noah to help prevent continued damage from Mike Dunleavy, and then recover back to Noah, posthaste. A couple times it worked, perhaps a few less times it didn’t work. With a potential suspension for Nene in Game 4 (it’s highly unlikely that Gortat gets suspended for leaving the bench during a called timeout), the Polish Hammer might need to put his machine in a high gear if the Wizards want to avoid going back to Chicago with the series tied. —K. Weidie
2 out of 5 stars
23 mins | minus-6 | 2 pts | 1-3 FGs | 3 rebs | 1 ast | 1 blk | 5 PFs
I still think that it the midst of a heated playoff game, Trevor Booker’s strip of the ball out of bounds would have gone to the Wizards if not for the extracurricular activities involving Nene in the early proceedings. If Book were to receive that call we would be looking at a four-star night and, possibly, a new folk hero in the DMV. As it stands, Booker spent his time appearing to have a ton of energy, but the results were minimal in terms of on-court production. Three offensive rebounds is nice, but that was really the sum total of his contributions to the team. With Nene facing a possible suspension for going MMA on Jimmy Butler, Booker is going to need to bring his “grown-ass man game” to new heights to stave off a playoff embarrassment.—S. Fagan
2 out of 5 stars
18 mins | minus-10 | 6 pts | 2-5 FGs | 2-5 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 4 rebs
In the fourth quarter Webster put away his Dashboard Confessional records for the evening and actually looked to be engaged in the game being played rather than simply floating through it like vague simulacrum of a basketball player. Unfortunately for Martell, his defensive liabilities remain such that leaving him out there for a prolonged period of time only allows the Wizards defense to sag. Torched by his counterpart, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Webster wasn’t able to pick it up enough on the offensive end to forgive his trespasses on the defensive end of the floor. Coach Hubie Brown may have been in love with Webster throughout the broadcast, but it was obvious that he had fallen for a Martell from the past who may never return to playing at the same form for the Wizards that he demonstrated during his 2012-13 campaign. —S. Fagan
1 out of 5 stars
11 mins | minus-9 | 2 pts | 1-3 FGs | 1 reb | 1 ast | 1 TO
The odometer has about 500,000 miles on it and the Professor appeared to be feeling every single one of those miles as the night progressed. Unable to post-up down low or push the Wizards into the kind of breakneck speed they needed to win the game, Miller appeared to fall into the dark void of #MaynorTime, content to pound the ball into the hardwood while failing to get is teammates involved in the offense. Perhaps the Wizards media food didn’t sit right with him this evening? —S. Fagan
0 out of 5 stars
8 seconds | minus-3 | 3 PFs
Either Randy Witmman had a checkers moment or Temple forgot the basic rules of basketball: you can’t foul someone until the ball is inbounded with only a few ticks left on the clock. The free shot and subsequent possession of the ball by the Bulls was the death knell of the Wizards on the evening and made Temple the goat, but one has to wonder why explicit instructions were not given to each member of the Wizards during those later possessions. —S. Fagan
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