The Chicago Bulls went back and forth with the Washington Wizards in game one of their first round series in the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Ultimately, though, it was a fourth-quarter push from the Wizards that lifted them to a 103-92 victory to give them the lead in the series.
While the Bulls’ tendency to falter offensively was certainly a factor in them picking up the game one loss, particularly a 3-15 shooting performance from D.J. Augustin, a large part of their struggles were surprisingly shortcomings on the defensive end of the floor. One of the most notable issues that they were up against was the inability of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson (as well as others) to successfully defend Nene.
Nene had a huge game for the Wizards, especially on the offensive end of the floor. In 35 minutes, Nene put up 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block while shooting 11-17. While that line alone is evidence that the Bulls’ frontcourt struggled to defend him, it goes beyond that.
The biggest issue that Nene created for the Bulls’ big men was with his mid-range shooting on the offensive side of the ball. Sure, the Wizards’ big man shot 4-4 inside of eight feet, but the 7-12 that he shot from the mid-range that really hurt Chicago in the contest.
Washington clearly has depth, youth, and high-tempo on their side, but Nene in the mid-range may be their biggest weapon. The Bulls in game one seemed more concerned with staying in the post to limit John Wall driving and Nene burned them for it because he’s effective in that area. The Bulls have to find a balance between keeping Wall at bay and keeping Nene from beating them as well. If not, the tough-minded Bulls might not be able to continue their improbable run this season.