Bradley Beal aggressively swung his arm, and Kirk Hinrich pushed Beal then removed his goggles as if to show he were ready for more.
Suddenly, a fairly common tangle during an inbound play turned bigger as teammates separated both players. Hinrich breathed heavily and stared daggers at Beal, who paced and smiled.
Like the second-quarter tussle, the Wizards were calm and loose and the Bulls were over-aggressive and tight in Washington’s 101-99 Game 2 overtime victory Tuesday. With a pair of stunning wins in Chicago, the fifth-seeded Wizards have taken a 2-0 series lead and complete control in the first-round matchup.
Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series on the road are 15-3, and half those series ended in sweeps.
- 2011: Dallas Mavericks beat Los Angeles Lakers in conference semifinals, 4-0
- 2010: Boston Celtics beat Orlando Magic in conference finals, 4-2
- 2008: Utah Jazz beat Houston Rockets in first round, 4-2
- 2005: San Antonio Spurs beat Phoenix Suns in conference finals, 4-1
- 2005: Houston Rockets lost to Dallas Mavericks in first round, 4-3
- 2003: New Jersey Nets beat Detroit Pistons in conference finals, 4-0
- 2001: Los Angeles Lakers beat San Antonio Spurs in conference finals, 4-0
- 1999: New York Knicks beat Atlanta Hawks in conference semifinals, 4-0
- 1995: Houston Rockets beat Orlando Magic in NBA Finals, 4-0
- 1995: Houston Rockets beat San Antonio Spurs in conference finals, 4-2
- 1994: Phoenix Suns lost to Houston Rockets in conference semifinals, 4-3
- 1993: Chicago Bulls beat Phoenix Suns in NBA Finals, 4-2
- 1987: Seattle SuperSonics beat Houston Rockets in conference semifinals, 4-2
- 1985: Philadelphia 76ers beat Milwaukee Bucks in conference semifinals, 4-0
- 1983: Milwaukee Bucks beat Boston Celtics in conference semifinals, 4-0
- 1977: Portland Trail Blazers beat Los Angeles Lakers in conference finals, 4-0
- 1970: Los Angeles Lakers beat Atlanta Hawks in division finals, 4-0
- 1969: San Francisco Warriors lost to Los Angeles Lakers in division semifinals, 4-2
Tuesday, the Wizards jumped to a 29-12 advantage and led until midway through the third quarter. But by the middle of the fourth quarter, the Bulls led by 10 – a 27-point swing.
Washington wasn’t rattled.
Beal scored nine of the Wizards’ 11 points in the final three minutes of regulation, and then Nene – the Game 1 hero mostly held quiet – began overtime on a personal 6-0 run.
That overlapped with the Bulls missing 12 straight shots, a drought that extended back to late fourth quarter. As the Bulls scrambled the game just slipped further away. Still, with a chance to tie in the final seconds, Hinrich missed a pair of free throws.
Washington hadn’t made the playoffs in five years, and Chicago’s streak of making the postseason is even longer.
But that hardly mattered Tuesday.
Even when the Wizards seemed to run out of effective plays as they steadily blew their lead, they never let the moment overcome them. If Chicago were going to come back, it would take a prolonged, energy-draining effort.
And to the Bulls’ credit, they provided that.
D.J. Augustin (team-high 25 points and seven assists) ran pick-and-rolls over and over, and Taj Gibson (22 points and 10 rebounds) tore through Washington’s defense. Usually, getting such great contributions from reserves would boost a team to victory, but Chicago’s starters weren’t collectively up to snuff.
Joakim Noah (20 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks) and Mike Dunleavy (nine points on six shots with four assists) played well, and Jimmy Butler played a lot (all 53 minutes). But Carlos Boozer (five points on six shots) struggled on both ends, Hinrich’s fervor did slightly more harm than good, and despite having many opportunities, Butler never made an imprint on the game.
At its worst, Chicago let its offense stagnate, settling for jumpers late in the shot clock. Unlike Game 1, when the Bulls scored just fine, that ultimately did them in.
The Wizards, on the other hand, found creative solutions to the trudge of playoff basketball and Chicago’s defense. With Noah and Gibson stifling the pick-and-roll better than Game 1, Washington focused more on spacing the floor. Beal finished with 26 points, and John Wall (16 points, seven assists and three steals) had his moments.
All that would have gone for naught, though, if it weren’t for a little attitude. In addition to Beal and Hinrich, Trevor Ariza and Joakim Noah received double technicals. The Wizards would just not back down against team everyone described to entering the series as – and often looked Tuesday – tougher.
“We expected it to be physical,” Beal said in his televised on-court interview. “It got out of hand a little bit, but we did a great job of staying the course.”
Beal withstood one more challenge after the game – a punishing chest slam from a pumped-up Wall. It’s just two games, but the fifth-seeded Wizards have every reason to celebrate their newfound triumph.
The Bulls, on the other hand, have seen better days and expected better even in this challenging season. As the Wizards patted each other on the back, Hinrich removed his goggles once again, dejectedly handing them to a Bulls staff member as he walked off the floor.
History says the Bulls are as likely to return to the United Center as they are to get swept in Washington.