My god, I thought to myself, they're doing it. It's only the first quarter, but they're doing it. Of course, I'd seen the Wizards dip their collective toe in the water against a zeroed-in squad, only to watch it collapse against the more sustained effort teams that have been there before are capable of producing. A nightmare of missed free throws cast a dark cloud, as did John Wall and Bradley Beal misfiring most of the night. A win required the team hitting all the right notes, the absolute grind quality. The quality symphonic.
It was all there. Jump shots fell, and when they didn't, the grind provided. Players barreled to the rim like heatseeking missiles hardwired to 'ANNIHILATE, M'FER'. The defense buckled in the second quarter, then third, but later stiffened, as the pissed off players refused to relent and locked down.
Brazilian Jesus reigned, Marcin Gortat pounded away like a man Hammer, Trevor Ariza turned up the emotion in an out-of-character display and the team as a whole set forth a revelation.
Be nervous, Chicago fans. Why? The Bulls' backcourt scoring negated the Wizards backcourt scoring ... and that should be reversed. The Wizards missed TONZ of first-half free throws. The frontcourt had to shoulder the load on offense. Things went wrong and the Wizards still beat the Bulls strength on strength. Your team got out-defended, outhustled and out-coached, Bulls fans. That is what a flipped script looks like. Be nervous.
Let the victory high fade for a moment and reality comes back, Wiz fans. Any failure to execute with intensity and this game falls by the wayside. Trevor Booker hitting an open jumpshot when the defense left him wide open is exactly the kind of decision the Wiz must punish the Bulls for making. It felt more crucial to maintaining first quarter momentum than it had any right to be. Nene assuming a huge minutes load so early in the series with the ever present possibility of losing the game had me sick to my stomach. A freak tip leading to a Ariza three was massive. This game could have gone either way until the Wizards defense took over.
Game 2 is on deck and we'll see if the Wizards have learned to ride their momentum properly. To the Wiz, fabulous win. Sunday night was everything I wanted from my playoff team. Send me forth from the bar on the 22nd screaming like tonight, y'all. Stuff went wrong, but the Wizards came CORRECT.
Put your brooms down, Chi-town. Put 'em down, put 'em down. Game 2 coming.
A couple notes to add (Prada's notes):
- Great line by Mike Wise: the Wizards "Out-Chicagoed" Chicago.
- The last time the Wizards won Game 1 on the road in a playoff series? Nineteen Eighty Six. I was negative one year old.
- A thought: THAT was exactly the game that the Wizards had in mind when they traded for Andre Miller. A lot of folks on Twitter were bugging out that Miller should play more than he did, especially when the camera panned to a confused John Wall after Randy Wittman called him into the game, then changed his mind. Thing is, Miller isn't in good enough shape to play long stretches; you saw him doubling over after being taken out. But if he can provide 15 good minutes, those will go a long way.
- As several pointed out to me, Gilbert Arenas posted some thoughts on the game on Instagram.
We have much more to come this morning. Today is a happy day.