Bulls rookie swingman Tony Snell got off to a quick start in his NBA postseason debut, hitting his first shot from the floor almost immediately after checking into the contest.
That was the only shot Snell made in Sunday’s 102-93 Game 1 loss to the Wizards at the United Center, but at least he now has the jitters out of the way.
“Definitely,” he told CSNChicago.com. “I was a little nervous before, but once I got out there the game was intense but it was the same as playing before, just needing to play harder.
“It was a big transition. During this time last year I was watching TV, looking at playoff games like, ‘I want to be there. Just keep working.’ So now I’m here and I’m going to continue to work and improve,” he went on to say. “I remember seeing Game 7 [of last spring’s first-round playoff series] against Brooklyn. That was a big, big-time win. I remember that game and I’m here now. “
Wizards backcourt struggles in debut, but gets win
The Wizards’ highly-touted young backcourt of All-Star point guard John Wall and second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal got off to rough start in their first playoff game, shooting a combined 7-for-25 from the field and scoring only four points in the fourth quarter, but in the end, they came away with the win.
“It’s very intense. I’ve watched it, been to a couple games, but it’s very different when you’re on the court. There was one segment when I couldn’t really breathe when I was going up and down the court. So it’s pretty big, with just making sure you’re sticking with your pace and doing what you want to,” said the 23-year-old Wall, who finished with 16 points and six apiece of assists and rebounds. “I think I made a couple easy, wide-open shots and just finishing at the basket. And just a couple little turnovers, but other than that, I tried to do the best at my job. Just leading the team and try to get us to a win, but I know I can play better offensively. But to get a win like this and have my teammates step up when I didn’t have a great game is big for us.
“We don’t have a lot of experience with the young guys — me, Brad and all the other guys — but we have great veterans,” he added. “I’m just trying to be the main leader of the team and those guys do a great job of just keeping us calm, and telling us, ‘Keep fighting. The game is far from over,’ even when we were up five with 20 seconds left."
The 20-year-old Beal, who had 13 points and seven assists, chimed in: “Beal: I was kind of nervous at first but that went away. I was excited to tip off. The atmosphere was great. They play hard. The intensity definitely increased.”
Wizards veteran Miller makes presence felt
On the opposite end of the spectrum was 38-year-old Wizards backup point guard Andre Miller, who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, helping Washington seize control of the contest heading into the game’s stretch run.
“A lot,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said, when asked how Miller impacted the game. “Their veterans played very well for them.”
Bulls sixth man Taj Gibson concurred: “He did. They came in and gave them a big boost. Every time we were getting ready to pull away, he would hit a tough shot or a tough layup. Even though he’s old, he’s really crafty, man. He’s really crafty, I’ll tell you that.”
Thibodeau doesn’t blame officiating for defeat
While the game seemed to feature some uneven officiating, Thibodeau wouldn’t say that it had an impact on the final result.
“I think that’s the nature of what’s going on in the playoffs right now, and if the game’s being called tight, I didn’t have a problem with the officials. It was the same for both sides, so we’re not going to put it on them, we’re going to bounce back, we’re going to study and get ourselves ready to play better,” the coach observed. “I thought we had some drives that – we have to finish stronger. Flipping the ball up, that’s not going to get it done in the playoffs. Have to finish strong.”
Additional reporting from Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Mark Strotman.