After charging out of the gates in Game 1, the Washington Wizards clawed back from a sloppy second half to top the Chicago Bulls 101-99 Tuesday night in an overtime contest littered with sloppy mistakes, questionable foul calls and missed free baskets.
But, just as it appeared Game 2 had all but slipped from the Wizards’ grasp, Nene once again emerged from the dust, this time to help undo the damage of the third and fourth quarters.
Early in the night, it appeared the Wizards were on pace to shut down the Bulls from start to finish. On the backs of Bradley Beal and John Wall, Washington leaped to a swift 17-point lead before the close of the first quarter. By evening’s end, Beal recorded 26 points and Wall added another 16 to Washington’s efforts.
But the earliest signs of a moment change surfaced in the final 1:41 of the first, when D.J. Augustin began to pester Washington, posting a quick eight points to pull Chicago within 11.
The Bulls outscored the Wizards in the second quarter, 29-25. Along with Joakim Noah, Augustin continued to hurt Washington. Perhaps more importantly, the Bulls accomplished something the Wizards struggled with throughout the night — they made their free throws.
Washington fell asleep in the third quarter, posting just 14 points to compete with the Bulls’ 26. Worse yet, the Wizards quickly found themselves in foul trouble with their backs against the wall.
Yet, somehow, Nene fueled Washington’s resurgence in the five extra minutes of basketball. He opened overtime with a two-point shot before slamming one in to put the Wizards up 95-91 with 3:24 remaining.
At long last, the Wizards sank their free throws to remain in front. As irony would have it, with Kirk Hinrich at the line, the Bulls found themselves a pair of missed free throws away from catching Washington. Instead, the Wizards held on to win it, marking the first time since 1982 that Washington has led a playoff series 2-0.