By Daniel Friedman
Led by a career performance from Trevor Ariza, the Wizards jumped ahead early and never let up, taking Game 4 with a convincing 98-89 win win over the Bulls. Washington leads the series 3-1 and can close out it out with a Game 5 win in Chicagon on Tuesday.
• Trevor Ariza made up for Nene’s absence, and then some. Though their interior anchor, Nene, was suspended for Game 4, the Wizards got off to a great start on the offensive end, scoring the first 14 points of the game. In the first six minutes, Ariza had already hit three shots from downtown. On his way to a career playoff-high 30 points, Ariza made sure that Nene’s absence didn’t leave the Wizards at a disadvantage, stepping up to hit a total of 6-of-10 shots from deep.
While Chicago's Game 3 savior was Mike Dunleavy, who led the Bulls to a win with 35 points Friday while guarded by Ariza, the roles were reversed in Game 4. The Bulls simply didn't have an answer for Ariza, and this time, Dunleavy and the rest of the Chicago offense struggled to get anything going until Taj Gibson and D. J. Augustin checked into the game.
Ariza's six three-pointers in Game 4 tied a Wizards playoff record. In addition to his offensive explosion, Ariza's contributions on defense were also an important factor, something that shouldn't be overlooked on a career day for the veteran forward.
• John Wall and Bradley Beal cause chaos on defense. Despite Nene's absence, the Wizards were still able to stick to their defensive game plan and disrupt whatever offense the Bulls tried to put together. Wall and Bradley were all over the floor on the defensive end, swiping passes and putting together ensuing fast breaks every few minutes.
Washington held Chicago scoreless for the first four minutes of the game, swarming the defensive glass, not giving up any easy second-chance buckets and playing terrific team basketball. Six different Wizards had steals in a game where Washington dominated on both ends and controlled the tempo the whole time.
Whenever the Bulls put together a good string of possessions, the Wizards, led by Beal and Wall, would counter by breaking up plays and catching errant passes. Joakim Noah, who spent a lot of time orchestrating the Bulls’ offense at the top of the key, and Kirk Hinrich, who committed four turnovers, were usually the culprits. Altogether, the Wizards forced the Bulls into committing 16 turnovers, a staggering statistic that exhibits just how well Washington played on the defensive end. It was evident throughout the game that the Bulls weren't comfortable on offense, and even as they took wide-open shots, they seemed out of their element.
• Chicago still can’t find any help on offense. After losing the first two games of the series at home, the Bulls found an answer on offense in Game 3 with Mike Dunleavy. On this Sunday afternoon, however, Chicago came up empty again, as only Taj Gibson, who scored a career-high 32 points, shooting 81 percent from the field, provided any real spark. Dunleavy didn’t get many looks after the first quarter, taking only three shots in the first half. He ended the game with only six points, hitting just 3-of-11 shots from the field.
The Bulls looked like the inferior team throughout the game, but there were still a few moments — late in the first quarter when Gibson really got going, and midway through the fourth quarter when the Wizards’ lead looked manageable — when you thought they could fight their way back into it.
After an 8-0 run at the beginning of the second quarter looked like the burst Chicago needed to get back into it, Gibson and Trevor Booker got called for technical fouls, though the foul on Booker was attributed to the Wizards’ bench. Washington took back the reins with its strong play on defense and didn’t let go for the rest of the day. Now, all the momentum is with the Wizards, who will head into Game 5 with a returning Nene, an opponent with lingering questions, and, most importantly, a 3-1 series lead.
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