Bradley Beal, Nene star as Wizards cap rally in OT to go up 2-0
CHICAGO — This one looked like it was slipping away from the Washington Wizards. Then, in a flash everything changed.
Bradley Beal came on strong late in regulation to finish with 26 points, Nene scored six of his 17 points in overtime and the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 101-99 Tuesday to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series. Game 3 is Friday at Washington.
“We’ve got to come out like we’re down 0-1 or 0-2,” said Beal, who scored 11 in the fourth quarter. “We’ve got to have that sense of urgency and just that drive and that motivation like we did early. We’ve got to be able to maintain that lead. We’ve got to continue to stay poised.”
The Wizards couldn’t maintain a 17-point first-quarter lead and had to rally from 10 down in the fourth.
Nene scored the first six points in overtime after being held in check by Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah in regulation, and the Wizards hung on after Kirk Hinrich failed to convert at the foul line in the closing seconds of overtime.
Noah had just hit two free throws when Beal missed a jumper with 18 seconds left. Jimmy Butler got the rebound and Chicago called time.
Hinrich, a 76 percent free throw shooter this season, had a chance to tie it after getting fouled by Nene on a drive with 2.4 seconds left. But his first attempt hit the rim. He deliberately missed the second, and Trevor Ariza grabbed the rebound to seal the win for Washington.
“I went up there thinking I was going to knock them down,” Hinrich said. “Tonight, I just couldn’t do it. However, I really felt that I should’ve made the layup.”
D.J. Augustin led Chicago with 25 points but cooled off late in the game with Ariza guarding him. Taj Gibson had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Noah added 20 points and 12 boards, but the Bulls find themselves in a huge hole after dropping two at home.
They blew a 13-point lead in Game 1 and couldn’t hang on after rallying in this one. Both times, they struggled in the fourth quarter, and coach Tom Thibodeau bristled when asked if he might switch up his late-game rotation.
“We look at everything,” he said. “Unreal.”
John Wall had 16 points and seven assists for Washington.
The Bulls appeared to be in good shape when they were leading 87-77 five minutes into the fourth. They were still leading, 91-85, when Beal shot the Wizards back into the game.
He nailed a 3-pointer that made it 91-88 and added a floater to make it a one-point game. Then, with a chance to put Washington ahead, he hit 1 of 2 free throws with 52.9 seconds left to tie it at 91.
Both teams had opportunities to win it in the closing seconds but couldn’t convert.
“I think we did a great job staying calm and composed,” Wall said. “Early in the season, we would get rattled and guys would try to make plays one on one on their own. Tonight, we trusted in our offense like we’ve been doing.”
The Bulls were leading 87-77 after a driving layup by Noah and two free throws by Butler with 6:59 left regulation. But with Beal going off, the Wizards made a run.
“I can’t take a lot of credit for the fourth quarter,” said Beal, who scored 11 in the fourth after quiet second and third quarters. “I think we got a lot of offensive rebounds and kickouts, and John hit me on a couple. I was fortunate to be able to knock down some, and I just stayed with it.
*Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images