The Wizards knocked off the Bulls, 75-69, Tuesday night at the United Center, winning the first-round series in five games. There were plenty of statistics that helped shape the outcome of the series, and we've pinpointed five here that most directly affected the outcome of the series.
Nene had his fair share of moments, and John Wall was a terror on defense throughout the series, but the most valuable player of the first-round series was Bradley Beal, who averaged 19.8 points in five games. He scored 17 or more in the final four games after a Game 1 performance in which he scored just 13 but managed to hand out seven assists. He shot 44 percent in the series, up from 41 percent in the regular season; he made 10 of 22 3-pointers and, before a sloppy Game 5 managing the ball, had just three turnovers in 163 minutes. He played all but 39 minutes in the series and was the most consistent Wizard in the series. And he saved his best stuff for last; in the fourth quarter (and one overtime period), Beal averaged 6.8 points on 48 percent shooting in the series. He was the closer the Bulls could have used.
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The Bulls' slow starts were beaten to death this series by the media, and for good reason. In all five games the Bulls trailed after the opening stanza, pitting them in a hole difficult for the NBA's lowest-scoring offense to get out of most nights. In all, the Wizards outscored the Bulls 136-103 in five first quarters, a -33 difference for Tom Thibodeau's group. And it spelled trouble: In the regular season the Bulls were 13-25 when they were outscored in the first quarter; of course, in the playoffs that record was 1-4. It was odd to see a Thibodeau-led group start off sluggish, though the Wizards were fifth in first-quarter scoring during the regular season. And for all the Bulls' struggles offensively, it was their defensive struggles in the opening stanza that held them down: the Wizards shot better than 52 percent in the opening stanzas to take early leads.
If there's one positive the Bulls can take from this series, it's that Taj Gibson was an absolute monster. He averaged 18.2 points on 56 percent shooting, grabbed 6.8 rebounds and blocked 2.4 shots in nearly 31 minutes per game. There's a good chance Tuesday night was Carlos Boozer's final game in a Bulls uniform -- he didn't speak with the media after the game, and in Tom Thibodeau's nearly 12-minute postgame interview he didn't mention Boozer once -- so this series was a potential look at the kind of player Gibson will be should he enter the starting lineup beside Joakim Noah next season. After averaging a pedestrian 10.9 points on 41 percent shooting in April, a refreshed Gibson came to play when the Bulls needed him most. No one on the Bulls will enter the 2014-15 season with more momentum.
66.7% to 37.5%
Joakim Noah had trouble guarding the pick-and-pop against Nene, but his numbers as a whole were fantastic. While battling an apparent knee injury -- one that finally became noticeable in Game 5 -- Noah averaged 10.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and 0.8 steals in 42 minutes per game. The Defensive Player of the Year was a plus in the series, but offensively his field goal percentage dipped each game. After going 4-for-6 in in Game 1 (66.7%) and 8-for-14 in Game 2 (57.1%), he dipped to 50 percent in Game 3, 44.4 percent in Game 4 and bottomed out in Game 5, making just 3 of 8 shots in 43 minutes. With DJ Augustin and Jimmy Butler struggling from the floor, the Bulls needed a No. 2 scorer to complement Taj Gibson, and Noah couldn't provide it while his counterpart, Nene, made him pay. Noah had a solid series, but his shooting didn't help the offensive woes.
If you ever challenge Nene to a midrange shooting contest, make sure you pick a venue that isn't the United Center. In three games in Chicago, Nene hit a blistering 19-for-33 shots outside of the paint. His stellar shooting didn't come as a huge surprise; in the regular season he shot a solid 44 percent on midrange shots, but his shooting in Chicago was out of this world. In Games 1, 2 and 5, his midrange jumpers went 7-for-13, 5-for-9 and 7-for-12. In 53 regular season games he attempted 4.4 midrange jumpers per game, and that number catapulted to more than 11 in three Chicago games. Of all the series' storylines, Nene's jumper was what really set everything into motion for the Wizards, which advanced to the second round and will face the winner of the Pacers and Hawks.