The Chicago Bulls were hoping to grit out another road win in Game 4 to even the series with the Washington Wizards at 2-2. Instead, the Wizards took them by surprise and scored the first 14 points of the game and then going wire-to-wire for a 98-89 win, pushing Chicago to the brink of elimination.
Many people are wondering who these Washington Wizards are and where they have come from. They were obviously underrated coming into the playoffs (as the No. 5 seed), but have found a spark that has led them to potentially beating the Chicago Bulls in a seven game series.
In that Game 4, Trevor Ariza had a sensational afternoon and led the Wizards with 30 points on six three pointers and just 17 shots. He also added eight rebounds and two steals. John Wall notched 15 points and 10 assists, while the entire team committed only six turnovers against an opportunistic Bulls defense.
The Bulls should have had a clear advantage in Game 4 after the league imposed a one-game suspension on the Wizards’ Nene for his “head butt” on Jimmy Butler in Game 3. Instead, they spluttered along in a dreadful effort against a deep Wizards squad that again proved to be too young and too fast. The Bulls did end the game well, outscoring the Wizards 27-16 in the fourth quarter. However, they trailed by 20 points entering the quarter and couldn’t compensate for it.
There is something we need to remember, though, the Bulls have a myriad of veteran experience and nipped the Brooklyn Nets in Game 7 of Round 1 last year at the Barclay’s Center. They aren’t dead yet. However, all indications from all four games so far in this series suggest that the Wizards will end Chicago’s season in Game 5, later tonight. They have the more potent scoring attack and their defense has proven capable of smothering the offensivley-challenged Bulls for long stretches.
Now, I want to key on the factors that have made this Wizards team a threat in the playoffs. To do that, I’m going to take a look at some individual players at grade their efforts. The player grades will start at C+ for a decent overall performance. Based on the quality of each player’s contributions, the grade will increase or decrease with extra credit given for huge stats or clutch performance. There are quite a few players that have been playing well for the Washington Wizards. Let’s see how they ranked in Game 4 of the series, in anticipation of tonight’s potential closeout Game 5.
John Wall, Point Guard
Wall had a tough time with his shot, so he decided to drive it to the lane to draw contact and open opportunities for teammates. He ended up getting 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting, but he got to the foul line eight times and dished out 10 assists. He also did well defensively, recording two steals.
He put up a play for the highlight reel around the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter. A Noah deflection became a D.J. Augustin fast break, but Wall flew to the ball like a free safety and knocked it away to thwart what should have been an easy transition basket for the Bulls.
John Wall had so much speed behind him that he hurdled the first two rows of seats under the basket in a single leap and landed like a parkour expert. Beautiful hustle, impressive athleticism.
Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
Through the first three games of the series, Trevor Ariza scored a total of 42 points. In Game 4, he did a rain dance and created a monsoon of three-pointers on the way to finishing with 30 points. He is sometimes called “A3za,” and he lived up to that name in Game 4. He hit a buzzer beater from the corner to wrap up the second quarter, which marked his fifth three-pointer in six attempts. He finished with six three-pointers total in one of his most sterling postseason performances.
Ariza had some special moments in the 2009 NBA Finals with the LA Lakers. Now in his 10th season, the veteran picked a great time to shine and bring his Wizards one win away from the franchise’s first win in a postseason series since beating the Bulls in 2005.
Bradley Beal, Shooting Guard
Although Beal didn’t play the role of shooting-guard assassin as he sometimes does, he had a steady scoring output which helped pace the Wizards’ offense. He ended up logging a game-high 39 minutes on the court, which was slightly more than Noah. He also scored 18 points, grabbed five boards and dished three assists. In addition to his contributions offensively, he recorded one steal defensively.
Marcin Gortat, Center
Gortat failed to make an impact on the glass, finishing with just six rebounds, and he missed three free throws on his first six trips to the line. In fact, his 17 points came on 18 attempts, so he can now decide what to do with those dozen bricks.
Nevertheless, he was a needed presence in the middle with Nene suspended, and Gortat even helped draw attention in the post, which led to several of his five assists.
Trevor Booker, Power Forward
Booker got the start in Nene’s stead and turned in a creditable effort, but his teammates were the ones picking up most of the slack. He did put in an important put-back with five minutes left to partially slow a Chicago run. Then he fouled out with just under three minutes left.
Booker finished with eight points, nine rebounds (six offensive) and three blocks in 28 minutes.
Game 4 belonged to the Washington starters.
Drew Gooden actually attempted a three-pointer, though it did not go in. He also chipped in a block and a steal to go along with his two points and five fouls.
Martell Webster missed three 3-pointers, but he hit his other three shots and had eight points. Andre Miller came on and dished a pair of assists to go with a steal in nine minutes.
Lastly, Al Harrington is still in the league, contrary to what you probably thought. He missed a shot and grabbed a rebound in five minutes.
I predict the Washington Wizards will end the first-round series against the Chicago Bulls in Game 5. The Washington Wizards would then go on to play either a surprising Atlanta Hawks team or a team that’s confusing everyone the Indiana Pacers. It looks like they will have a shot at either time and should make an interesting series.
The not-so-young Washington Wizards are in a great position right now, no matter how you look at it.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and you can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page. For more NBA news visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues, a fantasy basketball blog.