Who are these Wizards?
Not only did Washington take down the Bulls for the fifth straight time on Chicago's home floor, but they did it less than 24 hours after one of their most emotional wins of the season against the San Antonio Spurs, and despite 6-of-9 shooting performance from Derrick Rose tonight. The Wizards kept the game close early, even as the Bulls stormed out of the gates, and were able to pull away after a strong third quarter in which they outscored Chicago 32-19. The Bulls were never able to regain the lead.
Here are three things we can take away from tonight's magnificent victory:
1. Nene is one bad man
Pau Gasol has been the hottest player in the NBA this month but things changed with Nene hounding him all night. In his past two games prior to tonight, Gasol posted an average of 37 points and 16 rebounds on 59 percent shooting. He mustered just 13 points and eight rebounds on 36 percent shooting tonight and his frustration was visible all night long. Nene gave him no room to operate and it was clear that constant bumping and toughness was on the Brazilian's agenda tonight.
Oh wait, that's every night. But Nene was especially gritty tonight and clearly knew the scouting report on his man.
Fun fact: Nene has posted positive double-digit +/- ratings in four of his past five games, including tonight, and even dished out a season-high eight assists against the Bulls.
2. Paul Pierce can still shoot threes and play defense
First off, let's give a big congratulations to Pierce for continuing his dominance in all areas of the game, even at 37 years of age. Tonight he passed Jason Kidd on the all-time three-point shooting list.
Pierce has hit at least one three pointer in 19 consecutive games, and he was everywhere tonight. Hitting from deep, driving with force, and defending with passion. Jimmy Butler has been playing at all All-Star caliber level all season long. Except when he plays the Wizards.
Pierce may have a ton more miles on his legs than Butler, but he was able to stay tight all over the floor and disrupt the tempo of Butler's game. Pierce was maneuvering shockingly quick defensively and never let him get into any type of groove, leading to just 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting for the Most Improved Player candidate. It's impressive how many levels Pierce's game goes up when big moments arrive.
3. This is John Wall's time
Rose was hot in the first half. And I mean really hot. He scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first half, including a step-back three from beyond half court with relative ease. He was clearly over his recent shooting slump and showed it, as he looked confident both hitting three's and driving into the paint.
But in the second half, Wall picked up his game and level of intensity. He got tighter on Rose defensively, looked more for his shot instead of deferring to his teammates, and proved that it's not how you start, but how you finish that matters.
He scored 10 points in the final period, helping to keep any Chicago rally at bay, with an array of three-point shots, midrange jumpers, drives to the hoop, and even another baseline floater. I'm glad Wall had it all on display on national television for the world to see.
Oh, and we even saw another "Lasso" sighting (we may need to ask him his thoughts on a true nickname for it at some point, though).