December 12, 2019

Monumental Sports & Entertainment Creates Version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” Video

The District of Columbia has basketball fever and everyone is happy that the Wiz Kids are back in DC tonight to host the Pacers for game six of the NBA playoffs. Check out the fun video that MSE released. Warning: This tune is catchy and will stick in your head all day (that is not necessarily a bad thing!).

The video features Monumental Sports & Entertainment majority owner and chairman Ted Leonsis, MSE partners, District of Columbia mayor Vincent C. Gray, District of Columbia councilwoman and mayoral incumbent Muriel Bowser, District of Columbia councilman Jack Evans, Bullets alumni Gheorghe Muresan and Bob Dandridge, Wizards Radio Network broadcaster Dave Johnson and analyst Glenn Consor, Fox News’ Brett Baier, Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller, Ron Thompson, Gary Williams and Michael Jenkins, and WUSA 9’s Derek McGinty, Jan Jeffcoat, Topper Shutt and Dave Owens. The video also features members of the D.C. Fire Department and Emergency Services, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Army Band, G-Wiz, the Wizard Girls, Wizards fans and MSE staff.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 4 Analysis: Wiz Lose On A Night They Should Have Won

About five minutes into the fourth quarter, I had all but finalized a heartwarming piece highlighting the sensational play of the Washington Wizards’ bench. At the end of the game, I promptly deleted it and repeatedly smashed my face into my keyboard.

When I put my broken keyboard, and heart, back together, the struggle then became finding the right words to describe the slow-death that took place on the floor before us inside the Verizon Center on Sunday night. After staring off into space for several long minutes, that’s when it hit me.

The reason the words were so difficult to come up with is because the Wizards weren’t supposed to lose Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Indiana Pacers. They weren’t supposed to go down 3-1. Washington was supposed to tie the series up at 2-2 and head back to Indiana with new life.

Instead, they had what was rightfully theirs stolen right out from under their noses.

The setting was right. The Phone Booth was rocking (Ringing? Buzzing?). The hometown crowd in D.C. was as alive as ever for what could have been the final home game of the season. The Wizards fed off that energy, in the first half, and carried a 55-38 lead into the half.

The Senior Center, The Oldies But Goodies, The AARP Unit (saw that one on Twitter), whatever you want to call them, the bench for the Wizards, primarily Drew Gooden, Andre Miller and Al Harrington, didn’t play like they were 32, 38 and 34 years old respectively. Off the bench, they fueled Washington’s fight with 28 points between the three of them.

Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza both shot 2-for-4 from behind the arc and the Wizards collectively shot 45.6-percent from the floor. At the free throw line, they went 15-for-19. The shooting struggles that they went through in Games 2 and 3 seemingly disappeared. Shots were falling and the Wizards seemed poised to take back some control in a series that was certainly held captive by the Pacers.

But alas, the sleeping giant that is the Eastern Conference’s number one seed woke up. After being embarrassed to end the first half, the Pacers then stuck it to the Wizards in the second half. In front of the red, white and blue faithful, Indiana sent a powerful message to the District, and the NBA.

They outscored the Wizards 57-37 in the second half, highlighted by a 33-17 third quarter. Indiana had an answer for everything Washington threw at them. That answer took the form of small forward Paul George.

In a game-high 46 minutes, George poured in 39 points on 12-20 shooting, including seven three-pointers. At the free throw line, he made 8 of his 10 attempts and managed to grab 12 rebounds, as well. Not to be overlooked, Roy Hibbert added 17 points and George Hill provided 15 points of his own.

Ultimately, the Wizards were their own worst enemies and the Pacers took advantage of their mistakes. Washington had victory well within its grasp, but Indiana snatched it away thanks to a slow third quarter and a clutch performance from one of their stars.

Following a night as emotional as Sunday, it’s almost cruel to be reminded that there is still one more game (at least) left to be played. The 95-92 loss at home in Game 4 was so devastating, so debilitating, that any hope that remained for this season was quickly drawn away like a popped balloon. You could feel in the arena; you could see it on social media.

On Tuesday night, however, that’s exactly what Washington is faced with. For the first time since 2008, the Wizards will take the floor with their postseason on the line. With a win, they get to play another day. Should they lose, they’ll board the plane back to Washington for one final time.

Tipoff for Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals is Tuesday night at 7 PM EST in Indianapolis.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 4 Preview: Wiz in Must-Win Situation

On Friday night in Washington D.C, there was a definitive shift in momentum in the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards. As Washington begins to slow, the top-seeded Pacers are picking up steam and that is trouble for the Wizards.

Led by Bradley Beal, Washington got off to a hot start in the postseason. They took care of the Chicago Bulls in five games in round one before opening up round two with a statement win over Indiana. Lately, however, they seem to have cooled off while the Pacers have heated up.

Unlike Washington, Indiana started the postseason slow after a sloppy month and a half to end the regular season. They squeaked by the Atlanta Hawks in seven games before getting trounced by Washington to open the second round. Now, however, it seems like they’ve corrected the ship.

The Wizards convincingly won Game 1, but the Pacers have comeback to take complete control of this series. The Pacers stole Game 2 in Indy from the Wiz Kids, and then embarrassed the Wizards on their own floor on Friday night. Their defense was suffocating and their offense was clicking.

While Indiana is finding themselves again, Washington appears to be losing it’s sense of identity. As the Pacers have turned up the heat defensively, the Wizards have struggled to setup and run an offense. Things only seem to be sliding downhill, especially in an area where the Wizards have to excel in for success.

One place the Wizards have dramatically fallen off is from behind the three-point line. After making 10-of-16 in Game 1, they have made just 9-of-37 three-pointers in the past two games. Trevor Ariza and Beal have had a difficult time getting open shots and, because of that, haven’t been able to get into a rhythm.

Washington is beginning to show it’s youth for the first time all postseason. In the final minutes of Game 2 last Wednesday, the Wizards put up multiple threes that simply didn’t need to be taken. In Game 3, they appeared to be overwhelmed by Indiana and were unable to match their intensity.

With the Pacers on the upswing and the Wizards looking like a team running out of gas, Washington is now faced with a must-win Game 4 on Sunday night. Coming back from being down 3-1 is hard against any team, but if Indiana continues their recent upward trend, it will make the task exponentially more difficult for Washington.

Tipoff for a crucial Game 4 on Sunday is set of 8 PM EST inside the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 3 Analysis: Time To Be Worried About Washington?

On Wednesday night in Game 2, the Washington Wizards handed the Indiana Pacers the victory with sloppy play down the stretch. Following the uninspiring blowout loss in Game 3 on Friday night, should the hometown crowd be worried about the Wizards?

Washington was simply beaten by the Pacers at home in the Verizon Center. On Wednesday, we talked about how Washington gave Indiana the win. On Friday night, the number one seed in the Eastern Conference showed everyone why they were that seed entering the postseason.

In virtually every facet of the game, Washington was out-played by Indiana. On the scoreboard, they lost by 22 points. In the box score, Indiana doubled them in assists (20), had three more steals (9) and committed far fewer turnovers (the Wizards committed 17 to Indiana’s 9).

Rebounding, Indiana slowly took control of the paint as the game went on. After the Wizards held the advantage on the boards 16-13 at the end of the first quarter, Indiana then out-rebounded Washington 26-22 in the second half. No coincidence, Indiana out-scored the Wizards 51-30 in the third and fourth quarter.

Shooting-wise, Washington’s Game 2 struggles continued. They managed just 32.9-percent from the floor and were just 4-16 from behind the arc. At the free throw line, they made just 11-of-21 attempts. Indiana continued to shoot well from the charity stripe making 16-of-21 attempts.

The stat that sticks out the most from that bunch is Washington’s inability to hit from downtown. In the regular season and round one of the playoffs, Washington was a sharp-shooting team that lived, and died, by the three. After making 10 three-pointers in their Game 1 win, Washington has shot just 24.3-percent (9-for-37) from deep in Games 2 and 3. To reiterate: they have lived, and died, by the three.

This is now the second game in a row where the Wizards have struggled, which is certainly a reason to make one nervous about the future of the series. In Game 2, they struggled, but still had a chance at the end to win it. In Game 3, Indiana saw their opponents struggle and stepped on the gas. They didn’t allow the Wizards, or the fans, to get back in the game. Indiana kept up the pressure and refused to let up.

Washington was simply out-worked by the Pacers. Indiana’s defense was suffocating and disrupted anything the Wizards tried to establish. You can try all you want to setup and run an offense, but when your opponent is as feisty as Indiana, it’s hard to get something going. Rarely did Washington get an open look at a shot. They set screens, but Indiana always had an answer.

The beauty of it all is that there is a (day-after) tomorrow. Washington finds themselves down just one game and will get to try again on Sunday night in front of the hometown crowd. They’ve lost two in a row, but it would be a huge mistake to count this team out. Washington has proven numerous times this season that they are not a team to be taken lightly.

Indiana is now in control of the series at 2-1, but there’s no reason to think the Wizards can’t comeback. Tipoff for a crucial Game 4 is Sunday night at 8 PM EST.

Wizards Hand-Deliver Game 2 Victory to Pacers

Say what you will about Roy Hibbert’s 28 points and 9 rebounds, the Washington Wizards were not defeated by the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Rather, Washington simply lost the game. (Yes…there is a difference.)

The proof is in the pudding, folks, and it’s painfully obvious. Honestly, the fact the Wizards shot themselves in the foot as many times as they did and still had a chance to win should be very encouraging. As the series heads back to D.C. tied at 1-1, there is absolutely no reason to worry about this team.

After three quarters of play, Washington was down just four, 68-64. By no means had they played a solid three quarters of basketball, but Indiana had allowed them to hang around. For a team as explosive as the Wizards can be, that is the last thing you want to do.

Washington then opened up the fourth quarter on a 7-1 run to take the lead 71-69 with 9:00 left. The two teams then traded shots and with five minutes remaining, the Wizards were still up three. Already this postseason, they have proven they are team that can hang on to a late lead.

On Wednesday night, however, everything completely fell apart for Washington in the final five minutes of the game, mentally and physically.

Over the final five minutes, Washington went just 2-for-9 from the field including 1-for-5 from behind the arc. It was their unnecessary desperation on a sloppy sequence of possessions that ultimately did them in.

Down just three with 2:25 left, Washington then proceeded to shoot (and miss) a desperation three on each of their next three possessions. While you can argue that they were trying to tie the game, it’s also fair to say that there was no need for that kind of desperation with so much time left on the clock.

It’s not like the Pacers were scoring at will, either. On the other end of the floor, Washington played solid defense and held Indiana scoreless over that span of possessions. In fact, Indiana would score just four more points in the final 2:25 and two of those were free throws with 10 seconds left. The Wizards essentially spoiled all of their hard work done on defense when they had the ball on offense.

When you look at the box score, it’s obvious to see that the Wizards gave this one away. Washington shot just 5-for-12 from the free throw line while the Pacers shot 18-for-21. Wizards’ big man Nene failed to hit a freebie in his four attempts. For Hibbert, his breakout night continued at the line where he was a perfect 8-for-8.

Now let’s back up to the three-point line, a place where the Wizards also struggled mightily. In the regular season and throughout the postseason, Washington has been a reliable three-point shooting team. They shot 38-percent in the regular season, but that was certainly not the case in Game 2.

Collectively, they went 5-for-21 from behind the arc. John Wall missed all four of his three-point attempts en route to his underwhelming six-point effort. Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza combined to go just 4-for-13. In the regular season, both players shot 40-percent from downtown.

As stated at the beginning of this post, the fact that the Wizards still a chance to win this game in the final minutes is very encouraging. Even with all their struggles, they were able to keep pace with Indiana thanks in most part to their defense. While they struggled offensively, they did out-rebound Indiana (43-38), pick up five steals, three blocks and force seven turnovers.

The series now heads back to D.C. and there honestly isn’t much that needs to be changed with the Wizards. While they do need to figure out a defensive answer for Hibbert, much of their Game 2 problems were on the offensive end of the floor. In the final 2:25 of the game, it was a painful reminder of how young this team is as they fired bad shot after bad shot.

In Game 3, Washington simply needs to settle back down offensively. Set up the high screen and rolls and give Marcin Gortat (who poured in 21 points and 11 rebounds) and Nene a chance to hit those jumpers at the top of the key.

The Wizards just need to get back to what their good at, something that propelled them to their Game 1 victory and has brought them this far in the playoffs.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 2 Preview: Is Bench Play A Concern For Washington?

In Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Washington Wizards handily defeated the Indiana Pacers 102-96. They may have been separated by just six points on the scoreboard, but Washington took care of business like professionals on Monday night.

When it comes to the playoffs, your keys to victory are fairly simple. When you’re the road team, you can’t let the hometown crowd get inside your head. You need to play within yourself. It’s important to play your game and not get outside your comfort zone.

For the Wizards, they did all of those things and more in Game 1. They out-rebounded Indiana by nearly 20 and the play from the front-court tandem of Nene and Marcin Gortat was simply incredible. The duo combined for 27 points and 21 rebounds. All the while, the largest man on the floor, Roy Hibbert, was kept in check during his 18 minuets of play.

Hibbert’s postseason woes continued in Game 1. Save for his two blocks and one assist, it was a pretty dismal performance not worthy of the $14.2 million that he’s making this year. Not only did the All-Star center fail to score a point, but he also didn’t grab a rebound.

Where does that leave us with our keys to victory, then? If the Wizards won in nearly every facet of the game, then why even write a Game 2 preview? Doesn’t it seem like they have this series well in hand? Do they not have a weakness?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The one place where the Wizards could fall victim to the Pacers lies simply within the box score (numbers never lie).

With the exception of 12 points and 13 rebounds from Drew Gooden, the Wizards’ bench was largely ineffective on Monday night. Together, they put up just 15 points, 14 rebounds, one assist and three turnovers. Collectively, the Wizards scored a net of -35 points with their bench. On the other side, Indiana found a spark from their bench that kept them in the game.

For the 15 seconds that the Pacers had the lead in the second quarter, you can attribute much of that to the bench. They scored 17 points in the first half and were responsible for their early-second quarter charge. Indiana’s bench scored 33 points and the team scored a net of just -15 points with their bench players.

By no means was either bench outrageously effective, but there’s no denying that Indiana’s certainly beat Washington’s. While the starting five for the Wizards were no match for Indiana’s, the bench for the Pacers allowed them to hang around. Had the Wizards not made nine straight free throws to end the game, Indiana could have stolen Game 1 from them.

It was a rather uncharacteristically slow night from Washington’s bench. Trevor Booker, a hero off the bench in the Wizards’ Game 5 victory over Chicago, recorded a mere assist and two turnovers in nine minutes of play. Martell Webster, who has been able to provide one-to-two three pointers a game this postseason, missed on his only shot attempt in 16 minutes.

For as good as the starting five has been this season, the bench has also been there to pick them up when they are down. While Nene was out with an injury for much of the second half of the regular season, it was Booker who stepped in and provided eight points and six rebounds in 45 starts.

Likewise, Andre Miller has been a suitable replacement off the bench for Bradley Beal or John Wall. In fact, in the regular season, Miller’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 14.6 was actually .3 points higher than Beal’s. At 15.0, Booker’s PER was even better than that.

Washington has a golden opportunity on Wednesday night to push their lead to two games over the Pacers and be in complete control for another attempt at a series sweep in D.C. Indiana appears to be a frustrated bunch, largely in part to their non-existent big man. According to reports, David West was quite frustrated with Hibbert following their Game 1 loss.

Wall, Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene and Gortat will be physical and aggressive as always, but strong play from the bench in Game 2 would mentally take a toll on the Pacers. In their eyes, there would simply be no let-up in Washington’s game, and they would be on the defensive all night long.

With another strong performance in Game 2, Washington could head home with the Pacers wrapped around their finger. Tipoff is set for 7 PM EST in Indianapolis.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 1 Recap: Total Team Effort Leads To Victory For Washington

Despite several comeback attempts by the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards secured early control of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with their fourth road win of the postseason, 102-96.

While the two teams were separated by just six points on the scoreboard, Indiana was only in front for a mere 15-seconds in the second quarter. Other than that, it was all Wizards, all the time.

Washington began the game on a roll and immediately made the hometown crowd a non-factor. Trevor Ariza nailed two of his game-high six three pointers within the first minute of the game to help lead the Wizards to an early 8-0 lead.

Behind 11 first-quarter points from Ariza, Washington found themselves up 28-15 entering the second quarter. As we’ve seen throughout the postseason, however, the Wizards have gotten into a bad habit of letting their opponents back into a game in the second quarter. As we saw Monday night, old habits die hard.

The Pacers started the quarter on a roll with a 14-2 run to take the lead 31-30 with 8:15 remaining in the period. As Washington was able to do throughout the contest, they responded with a run of their own to retake control. After trading shots over the next three minutes, the Wizards pulled away to end the half.

In the final five minutes of the first half, Washington closed on a 15-6 run to take a 56-43 halftime lead. Any sort of momentum that the Pacers had built, the Wizards had quickly taken away. Ariza and Bradley Beal combined to go 3-for-4 from behind the arc in the final push before halftime.

After building a 60-44 lead in the opening minutes of the second half, Indiana began to chip away at the Wizards’ lead. To finish off a third quarter in which the two teams combined for just 32 points, Lance Stephenson scored nine points in the quarter as the Pacers closed the lead to seven on an 18-9 run.

Once again, the Wizards responded. Thanks to two free throws from Drew Gooden (12 points, 13 rebounds) and a three from Andre Miller, Washington widened their lead to 12, 74-62. For much of the fourth quarter, it was a back and forth battle where the Wizards were able to match Indiana shot for shot.

With five minutes remaining, Washington had it’s largest lead of the half, 92-78. All things seemed to be going their way, especially after a technical fouled was assessed to Indiana’s David West. For a third time, however, Indiana began to claw their way back into the contest.

It wasn’t all due to an elevated level of play by the Pacers, unfortunately, as Washington made it’s fair-share of mistakes. Following West’s technical foul, Beal missed three free throws and the Wizards committed several turnovers. With just two minutes remaining, the Pacers were lurking down 10 points.

Washington struggled at the free throw line for much of the second half, but it was their ability to make their freebies in the clutch that iced the game. In the final minute, Indiana made four three pointers. While the Pacers were hot from behind the arc, the Wizards made their final nine free throws to stay out front and secure the victory.

The scoreboard doesn’t show just how much better the Wizards were on this night. Washington out-rebounded Indiana 53-36 and held the advantage in assists 23-16. They made 10 threes and shot 41.7-percent from the floor.

Possibly the biggest advantage for the Wizards was the biggest man of the floor, Roy Hibbert. In 18 minutes, Hibbert failed to score or grab a rebound and committed five fouls. In the paint for the Wizards, Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for 27 points and 21 rebounds (15 rebounds for Gortat).

The front-court battle was also won by the Wizards. While George Hill had 18 points, it’s important to note that six of those came in a meaningless final-minute rally. Paul George finished with 18 points, but Ariza bested that with 22 points of his own.

A new dynamic duo is forming in the NBA with Beal and Wall. Beal poured in a game-high 25 points, seven assists and five steals. While Wall scored just 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, he recorded a game-high nine assists. Wall was the leader on the floor and Beal took advantage of the opportunities created by him.

Washington is a perfect 4-0 on the road in the playoffs and certainly didn’t seem phased by the Indiana faithful on Monday in their Game 1 victory. The series stays in Indiana for Game 2 on Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 PM EST.

Washington Wizards vs Indiana Pacers Game 1 Preview

On Monday night, the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers will go head-to-head in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. Series features teams that seem almost opposite of each other.

On the one hand, you’ve got the youthful and energetic Wizards. On the other, you’ve got the question mark that is the Pacers. After dominating for much of the regular season, they slowed near the end, but still entered the playoffs as the number-one seed in the east. For the Wizards, they fought tooth and nail all season long for their fifth-seed.

The Pacers biggest asset, literally, has been seemingly invisible this postseason. After averaging 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the regular season, 7-2 center Roy Hibbert has barely managed half that in the postseason. Defensively, he hasn’t been effective as his blocks and steals are half that of his regular season averages, as well.

That could very well be where the Wizards hold the upper hand in this matchup. While John Wall and Bradley Beal have been a back-court duo to be feared, the impact that Nene and Marcin Gortat can have on this series is undeniable. The Wizards’ big men have both seen a minutes increase in the postseason and they are making those minutes count.

Gortat has been averaging nearly a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds per game this postseason. His heart and hustle in the low-post has been very beneficial for Washington. In their series-clinching Game 5 win over the Chicago Bulls, Gortat grabbed 13 rebounds, a playoff-high for him.

Just as important, if not more important, has been the play of Nene. After scoring 24 points to lead the Wizards to their Game 1 victory in Chicago, Nene then cooled a bit to score 17 and 10 points in Games 2 and 3. After serving his one game suspension, Nene returned with a vengeance to drop 20 points, grab seven rebounds and dish four assists in the decisive Game 5.

The one player on the Pacers’ front-court that Washington will need to defend and defend well is David West. The 10-year veteran power forward is averaging 13.4 points per game this postseason, highlighted by a 24-point performance in Game 6 to stave off elimination. It’s also important to note that Hibbert did have a 13-point game in Game 7, so it should be interesting to see if that’s the start of something big for him.

For the Wizards, the fact that they got out of the first round is a shock to many. As highlighted by the team’s Twitter page shortly after their series victory, all but one of the experts at ESPN had Chicago winning that series. Much of Washington’s success, however, was due to their ability to eliminate home-court advantage.

The series will open up in Indiana, but Washington has proven that playing on the road doesn’t phase them. They are 3-0 on the road this postseason and outscored the Bulls 278-261 in Chicago. That is no small task in front of the playoff atmosphere you usually find from the hometown crowd.

The last time the Wizards made the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, they were swept by the Miami Heat in 2005. If you want to find their last berth in the conference finals, then you need to go all the way by to 1979 when they eventually lost to the then Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals.

The second round of the playoffs start Monday night. Tipoff for Game 1 is set of 7 PM EST in Indiana.

Wizards Announce Playoff Series Schedule vs Pacers

On Saturday night, the top-seeded Indiana Pacers took care of business in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Playoffs first round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. After staving off elimination in Game 6, they won the decisive seventh game 92-80.

With that victory, the Pacers move on to the second round where the Washington Wizards, fresh off a 3-1 series victory over the Chicago Bulls in the first round, anxiously await. Washington is a team on a roll and seedings should mean very little in this matchup. The Wizards have become a trendy pick for to make the conference finals and Indiana shouldn’t take them lightly.

Along with the matchup announcement, the series schedule was revealed. Much like the first round, Washington’s opponent will have home court advantage. The Pacers will host the first two games of the series before coming to D.C. for a pair. The final three games will then alternate between Indiana, Washington and then back to Indiana should their be a Game 7.

The schedule is as follows:

Game 1: Monday, May 5th, Washington at Indiana, Time – TBD, TV – TNT

Game 2: Wednesday, May 7th, Washington at Indiana, Time – TBD, TV – TNT

Game 3: Friday, May 9th, Indiana at Washington, Time – TBD, TV – ESPN

Game 4: Sunday, May 11th, Indiana at Washington, Time – TBD, TV – TBD

*Game 5: Tuesday, May 13th, Washington at Indiana, Time – TBD, TV – TNT

*Game 6: Thursday, May 15th, Indiana at Washington, Time – TBD, TV – ESPN

*Game 7: Sunday, May 18th, Washington at Indiana, Time – TBD, TV – TBD

*If necessary

For the Wizards’ first home playoff games since 2008, the hometown folks put together a red, white and blue color scheme. It should be interesting to see what they come up with for the second round. For tickets, head on over to the Washington Wizards’ website.

Nene Leads Wizards Past Bulls in First Round of Eastern Conference Playoffs

With Nene back in their lineup, the Washington Wizards defeated the Chicago Bulls 75-69 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Playoff series to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Nene established himself early on for the Wizards in the closeout game. After his ejection in Game 3 rendered him suspended for Game 4, he returned with a vengeance on Tuesday night. He made his presence felt early for Washington and flexed his muscle throughout the game.

In the midst of a back and forth battle between the two teams, the big Brazilian registered his first of six first-quarter points just a few minutes in. For a couple of teams that have thrived off of their defensive play this season, there wasn’t much of it from Washington and Randy Wittman took a timeout with 4:58 left. After the timeout, the Wizards began to turn up the heat.

Thanks in part to four points off the bench from Trevor Booker, the Wizards closed out the quarter on a 10-5 run to take a 23-15 lead into the second quarter. Washington shot an impressive 55-percent from the floor while the Bulls shot an uninspired 26-percent. The crowd was out of the game and everything looked to be going the Wizards’ way.

In the second quarter, it was an entirely different game. After shooting a low percentage in the first quarter, Chicago couldn’t miss in the second. At one point, Washington found themselves on the wrong end of a 21-9 run. Thanks to a John Wall and-1 in the final minute, the Wizards survived the second quarter surge to be tied with the Bulls 41-41 at the half.

Washington then came out of the gate strong for the third quarter and relied on Nene to carry them. Washington outscored Chicago 20-11 in the period and eight points were from Nene. While the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah tried his best, he was no match for the Wizards’ big man.

As Washington took a 61-52 lead into the fourth quarter, it became clear early on that the Bulls weren’t going away quietly in front of the hometown crowd. Chicago opened up the quarter on a 7-4 run including an and-1 play from Taj Gibson. Just minutes after he made the play, Gibson was removed from the game with an ankle injury.

The Wizards struggled to shoot the ball in the fourth quarter (just 5-of-18), but was able to fall back on heart and hustle to win the game. Booker, Marcin Gortat and Nene were all over the court winning the loose balls and creating second-chance opportunities. The trio combined for eight rebounds and countless hustle plays that won’t show up in the stat sheet.

Possibly the biggest play this season for the Wizards is one of those plays. With just over 16-second remaining, Andre Miller went to the line with an opportunity to make it a two-score game and all but seal the victory. He missed the first, and then following his miss on the second free throw, Nene back-slapped the ball out to Bradley Beal. Beal went on to sink his pair and seal the win.

Nene finished off the contest with 20 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. Wall dropped a game-high 24 points and added just as many rebounds and assists as Nene. Beal poured in 17 points and Gortat led the Wizards with 13 rebounds. It was a total team effort as each man provided quality minutes.

Washington will now face the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series. Currently, the eighth-seeded Hawks lead the top-seeded Pacers 3-2. On Thursday night, the two will face off in Indiana for Game 6 at 7 PM EST.

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