The Washington Wizards had to rally from a 13 point deficit, but in doing so took home a victory in Game 1 of their playoff series with the Chicago Bulls. It’s a series that many feel the Wizards are at a disadvantage in, but their win in the opener shows the 4-5 matchup may be closer than many thought.
While the Bulls are playing in their sixth straight postseason, the Wizards are seeing the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08 according to the Bleacher Report. No current Wizard was on the last Washington squad to see postseason action.
Although as a team the Wizards haven’t sniffed the postseason in quite a while, the number of Washington players with fairly extensive playoff experience may surprise some. According to the Daily Herald‘s Mike McGraw, you can find playoff veterans up and down the Wizards lineup:
Thibs got another pregame question about Wizards playoff inexperience. They have six rotation guys with 40+ games & two who played in Finals
— Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHBulls) April 20, 2014
History may be on the side of the Wizards as well, as the last playoff series they won was against the Bulls:
Fun fact: Since 1982, Wizards have won 1 playoff series (vs. Bulls in ’05). Bulls have won 35 playoff series since ’82. — Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHBulls) April 20, 2014
All that “inexperience” gave the Wizards enough fortitude to come back after being down by as much as 13 points to take the first game of the series the Associated Press reports. Nene scored a game-high 24 points for Washington, with Trevor Ariza close behind and adding another 18. This game was also the postseason debut of John Wall who played well and scored 16 for the Wizards.
The 13 point comeback happened in the third quarter, and after trailing Chicago by three going into the fourth, Washington outscored the Bulls 18-6 over the final six minutes of the game, giving them an important postseason victory. Washington pulled away in the end to win 102-93.
This game showed the kind of mental toughness that the Wizards didn’t seem to possess early in the season. Wizards power forward called the team out on it earlier this season when speaking to the Washington Post:
“Our weakest thing at this point is our mental toughness. We really lock in for the good teams and then we allow these teams that are sub-par and we just relax. We try to play in the last six minutes of the game and think we can turn it on but we’re not the Miami Heat. We’re not that good. We can be that good as far as closing teams out. We’re not there yet. That’s what these guys need to realize.”
So far it looks like the Washington Wizards have their heads in the right place, but it will be harder to maintain that mental toughness as the series rolls on. Game 2 will take place on Tuesday.