Five observations: Wizards stun Bulls late, take 1-0 lead

Five observations: Wizards stun Bulls late, take 1-0 lead
April 20, 2014, 9:00 pm
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Mark Strotman

The Bulls offense couldn't get it done late in Sunday night's Game 1 against the Wizards, resulting in a 102-93 victory for the visitors. The Bulls now face a 1-0 deficit in the series as they prepare for Tuesday night's Game 2. Here are five observations from Game 1 and how they affected Sunday night's outcome:

1. Nene is healthy and going to be a tall order for the Bulls to guard

It wasn't until about an hour before tip-off that Nene was officially put in the starting lineup, yet it took just minutes for him to make his presence known once the game started. The 6-foot-11 power forward, starting his first game since Feb. 23, was a force inside, scoring 24 points on 11-for-17 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds in 35 efficient minutes. He was deadly in pick-and-pop situations, took Defensive Player of the Year favorite Joakim Noah off the dribble on multiple occasions and, as Randy Wittman predicted, looked comfortable playing alongside Marcin Gortat. Tom Thibodeau will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how they'll slow down Nene.

2. This is going to be a chippy series

This shouldn't be a surprise considering it features two defensive-minded Eastern Conference teams, but expect this series to look more like a 12-round slugfest than a 100-meter dash. The two teams combined to commit 51 fouls, attempted 61 free throws and Kirk Hinrich added a technical foul for good measure. Hinrich found himself in foul trouble early, while 12 different players committed three or more fouls. If Nene is healthy, Jimmy Butler and DJ Augustin continue to stay aggressive and the two teams' styles remain, expect there to be plenty of whistles. And that should help the Bulls, as the Wizards ranked 25th in the NBA in free throw percentage (.731).

[MORE: Bulls home-court advantage vanishes in Game 1 loss to Wizards]

3. For at least one game, the Bulls backcourt kept up

The consensus heading into this series was that the Wizards held the edge in the backcourt. But that wasn't the case Sunday night in Game 1. The Wizards' backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal combined to go 7 of 25 for 29 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists. Wall was careless with the ball at times while Beal never really found a groove, especially on the outside. On the other hand, Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler were everywhere, combining to score 31 points on 13-for-28 shooting and added seven rebounds and four assists. Andre Miller (10 points) was stellar off the bench for the Wizards, while DJ Augustin scored 16 as a reserve. They didn't look good in the final minutes, but as a whole this was a solid showing from Chicago's guards.

4. The Bulls must move the ball better

The Bulls have been one of the better passing teams in the NBA this season but really struggled to get the ball moving against an impressive Wizards defense. Tom Thibodeau's group finished with just 13 assists on 34 made baskets (compared to the Wizards, who assisted on 21 of 36 field goals). The lack of ball movement really showed in the final minutes, when the Bulls missed nine of 10 shots in a nearly five-minute span. Joakim Noah had four assists but didn't do much out of the high-post where he has been efficient all year.

5. Carlos Boozer had his way with Marcin Gortat

With Joakim Noah focused on trying to slow down Nene, Carlos Boozer was able to take advantage of single coverage on Marcin Gortat. Boozer used an array of jumpers and dribble-drives to get around the 7-footer, scoring 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting while also grabbing nine rebounds in 24 minutes. He didn't play at all in the fourth quarter, with Thibodeau instead option to use Gibson and Noah. But when Boozer was in he played well. His -5 rating was best among starters.