It wasn't pretty, and at times was incredibly frustrating, but the Wizards closed out a tight ball game in their 96-93 win at home against the Chicago Bulls. This was a night riddled with turnovers, foul trouble to Bradley Beal, and an unusually strong shooting performance by Kirk Hinrich. But as All-Stars generally do, John Wall took control of the game, pouring in 23 points on 9-15 shooting along with 11 assists.
From the moment this game tipped off, it seemed like the Wizards had complete control of the ball game. Aside from a few bone-headed turnovers to start, the offense got whatever it pleased. The team lived inside the paint, led by Wall who constantly sucked in defenders by wisely probing the defense before kicking it out to shooters along the perimeter. Kirk Hinrich simply had no shot against Wall, much like in their meeting on Monday night, and the Bulls were forced to overcompensate. But, this was far from the blowout the team handed Miami on Wednesday, and the defense was the culprit. Surprisingly, it was D.J. Augustin who came off the bench and took it right to Garrett Temple to the tune of 11 first half points on 4-5 shooting. The Wizards kept the Bulls in it by refusing to fight over screens, leading to a number of wide open shots, and handing them extra possessions with careless turnovers.
And those open shots and careless turnovers carried over to the third quarter. It was another poor showing out of halftime, as the Bulls quickly took the lead while feasting on four Wizards turnovers in the first four minutes. Things didn't get any easier as Bradley Beal picked up his fourth foul while trying to contest a Joakim Noah shot under the basket. There were just too many bobbled passes and really no sense of urgency from the team.
Then, Randy Wittman called timeout following a wide-open Mike Dunleavy three, and the tide turned as John Wall came alive. He sunk a contested 17-footer, then leaked out in transition, caught an outlet pass from Ariza, raced down the floor, spun in the air as he got fouled, and tossed the ball up near the hoop. The ball magically hit off the backboard and into the hoop. Finally, the Wizards had some momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
It was all John Wall and Bradley Beal in the fourth quarter. Wall assisted on three huge buckets for the Wizards while knocking down a huge pull-up of his own. Regardless of the turnovers, he played an incredible floor game against a tough Chicago defense. As for Beal, he connected on four of his five attempts in the quarter while finally clamping down on defense and fighting over those pesky Chicago screens.
With ten seconds remaining and holding onto a three-point lead, the Wizards had an interesting dilemma on their hands. Should they foul? Ultimately, they decided not to, and against Chicago's bunch set out of the sideline out-of-bounds, they did not switch, and instead used Wall to stunt to Dunleavy curling off a screen. This forced the opposition to reset, and found Nene on a mismatch against Jimmy Butler. Nene blocked the shot, sealing the victory and lifting Washington to .500.
Here are some game notes:
- Otto Porter didn't do anything offensively in his 6 first-half minutes, but I love the defense he showed at the end of the half. He clogged up a driving lane, dug down and helped on a Boozer post-up, and managed to run cross-court to contested a three in the corner. It obviously doesn't excuse him not even attempting a shot, but it's something.
- Wings were consistently short-cutting those Chicago screens, and the Bulls made them pay. Probably the main reason why this was such a close game in the first half, just gave up too many open shots.
- Mentioned this on twitter, but it's so refreshing to see Wall just pull-up from three in the waning seconds of the second quarter. You don't want it to become a habit, but the Wizards rarely ever iso Wall, and when they do, he's always trying to break down his defender before shooting an off-balanced long-two. These threes are just so much more efficient.
- A lot of poor breakdowns on defense to start the third, none bigger than the events leading to the Dunleavy three at the 5:47 mark. First Wall let Hinrich get to the middle when he should have ICED it and force him to the sideline, then after a Dunleavy screen, Wall signaled to Martell to switch, but instead, both defenders charged at Kirk. Easy three for Chicago.
- Just an incredible chase-down block by Garrett Temple near the end of the third. He knew D.J. Augustin would try a reverse layup, so he slowed down and timed his jump about as well as anyone can. He's made about a handful of incredible defensive plays in transition since being promoted to back-up PG.