The Washington Wizards are ready to wrap up their first-round Eastern Conference Series against the Chicago Bulls. The Wizards put together their best start-to-finish performance of the series in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead and can close it out when they visit the Bulls for Game 5 on Tuesday. Washington was without Nene due to a one-game suspension in Game 4 but Trevor Ariza took on a bigger role in the offense to make up for the loss.
Ariza hit a pair of 3-pointers during a game-opening 14-0 run and the Wizards never trailed on Sunday. The veteran swingman finished with 30 points, the last two coming on a dunk late in the fourth quarter that thwarted Chicago’s last chance at a rally. “I think we’re smart enough as a group to understand that when one of your pieces goes down you have to find ways and will ways to win,” Ariza told reporters. “…Tonight was my night to take the scoring load.” Ariza’s big night helped make up for Chicago forward Taj Gibson going off for a career-high 32 points.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington), CSN Chicago
ABOUT THE WIZARDS: Washington has not been to the Eastern Conference semifinals since the 2004-05 season but is making its way toward that goal with an offense that has relied on a different player in each of the three wins. Nene was the big factor in Game 1 by outplaying Bulls center Joakim Noah and Bradley Beal’s late-game heroics in Game 2 made the difference before Ariza took over on Sunday. Trevor Booker got the start in place of Nene in Game 4 and recorded eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 28 minutes. “I think it was a blessing in disguise, maybe the last (21 games) that (Nene) missed at the end of the year,” coach Randy Wittman said. “(Booker) started all those games.”
ABOUT THE BULLS: Gibson went 13-of-16 from the field but the rest of the Chicago lineup was just 22-of-62 in Game 4. Mike Dunleavy, who was the hero of Game 3 in the Bulls’ lone win in the series with 35 points, was held to six points on 3-of-8 shooting in Game 4. “You can’t put it on any one guy,” coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. “It’s our team, and readiness to play is me. They have to do their job, and they have to get out there and they have to execute. I have to get them ready and so that’s disappointing. It’s got to change or our season will be over.”
1. Washington committed just six turnovers in Game 4 - the fewest the Bulls have forced all season.
2. Chicago G D.J. Augustin is shooting 32.3 percent in the series and was held to a series-low eight points in Game 4.
3. Beal is 9-of-16 from 3-point range in the last three games.
PREDICTION: Wizards 96, Bulls 89