Wall, Wizards finish off Bulls in Game 5
CHICAGO — John Wall capped his first career playoff series in style.
The Washington guard scored 24 points, leading the Wizards to a 75-69 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Tuesday and a 4-1 win in the best-of-seven, first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Washington won a playoff series for the first time since 2005, when it beat the Bulls, and for just the second time since 1982.
The fifth-seeded Wizards will face the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series, which the eighth-seeded Hawks lead 3-2.
“It means a lot because it means we get a little rest now,” second-year Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “We have been through so much together. We’ve played great basketball in this series, and we can only continue to get better no matter who we play in the next round.”
Coming off a one-game suspension for head-butting Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, Wizards forward Nene delivered another strong offensive performance, scoring 20 points. Throughout the series, he was nearly automatic on his quick lean-back jumpers.
Beal added 17 points for the Wizards, while center Marcin Gortat grabbed 13 rebounds.
Chicago shot just 33.3 percent from the field, while Washington hit 40.5 percent of its field-goal attempts.
“When we started this series, we knew no matter what the teams did on offense, it was defense that was going to win,” Wall said. “We played great defense, and that is why we came out with the win.”
Trailing by nine points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bulls closed within 65-62 on guard Kirk Hinrich’s 3-pointer. Wall answered with a 3-pointer and later added a fast-break scoop to put Washington ahead 70-62 with 5:23 remaining.
A 3-pointer by Butler and jumper from forward Carlos Boozer brought Chicago back within 70-67. After the teams traded points, Washington took more than a minute off the clock when Gortat grabbed or tipped three consecutive offensive rebounds.
The Bulls finally got the ball back, but Boozer missed a driving attempt.
After forcing a 24-second violation, Chicago got another chance trailing by three with 22.4 seconds to go. The Bulls tried to run a quick-hitter to Butler, who missed a layup attempt.
Chicago could have had another chance to tie when Wizards guard Andre Miller missed two free throws with 16.2 seconds left, but Nene tipped the offensive rebound back out, and the Wizards finished the scoring at the foul line.
The Bulls are no strangers to injury misfortune, with former MVP Derrick Rose missing all but 10 games this season with a knee ailment. With 7:51 left in the fourth quarter Tuesday, forward Taj Gibson was helped off the court after turning his left ankle while trying to block a Wall shot attempt.
“It was just tough the whole game,” Gibson said. “The way we started the game, the way we came out the beginning of the third. After I got hurt, watching in the back. It’s just frustrating.”
Earlier in the second half, Chicago center Joakim Noah limped noticeably after appearing to get hit in the right knee by teammate Mike Dunleavy while fighting for a defensive rebound.
Hinrich and Butler led the Bulls with 16 points each. Gibson scored 12 and Boozer 10, with Noah pulling down a game-high 18 rebounds.
“Right now, it’s tough because we just lost. It’s always frustrating,” Noah said. “We gave it our all. Disappointed. You look back and wish there were things you could have done better.”
The Bulls were focused on getting off to a better start after falling behind 14-0 in Sunday’s Game 4. It went OK for a while, with Chicago holding a 10-9 lead midway through the first quarter, but the Bulls went on a cold-shooting streak, hitting just one of their next 15 shots to fall behind 28-16.
Chicago snapped out of its offensive funk and went on a 17-4 run, taking a 37-36 lead on a Noah jumper.
The score was tied 41-41 at halftime, which was a noticeable improvement by the Bulls’ defense. In the first four games of the series, Washington averaged 52.5 points in the first half.
The Wizards controlled the third quarter, limiting Chicago to 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting (25 percent). Washington scored seven straight points in the middle of the quarter, opening a 56-48 advantage with 5:13 left on Nene’s jumper.
By the end of the third quarter, the Wizards led 61-52 and Chicago was shooting just 32.2 percent as a team.
“In this game, we had to grind it out,” said Washington’s Randy Wittman, who earned his first playoff series victory as a head coach. “I am proud of those guys. For a lot of them, this is the first time dealing with this. Not only being in the playoffs, but closing out the series. They realize how hard it is. They never lost their focus of being satisfied with a couple wins.”
NOTES: Both coaches in the series have ties to Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau was on Rivers’ staff in Boston from 2008-10, while Washington’s Randy Wittman played with Rivers on the Atlanta Hawks from 1983-88. “I’m trying to be there for him,” Wittman said before Tuesday’s game. “I think he’s handled it as well as he can handle it. I just wanted to be there to support him and try to help him get his mind back to where it should be, and that’s playing basketball.” ... The Bulls trailed 3-1 in a playoff series 10 times, and they lost each time. ... Washington took a 3-1 lead in the playoffs for the sixth time, and they won each of the series. However, Tuesday was the first time they closed out one of those series in Game 5. ... Wizards F Trevor Ariza shot 46.5 percent (13-for-28) from 3-point range in the series. He was 0-for-1 beyond the arc in Game 5.