CHICAGO — Despite being one game away from reaching their goal of finishing off the Chicago Bulls, the Washington Wizards wanted to play like the more desperate team, as if they were still the underdog. Washington’s John Wall continued to trumpet the Bulls as the favorite.
That mentality was evident in the Wizards’ Trevor Ariza, as he fought through two Bulls, batting the ball to himself three times to get a steal; in Trevor Booker, who was flying all over the court to grab almost any loose carom; and in Marcin Gortat grabbing three offensive rebounds for Washington on one possession in the final minutes. Finally, that hunger was found in Nene, who grabbed two offensive rebounds in the closing seconds to make sure that the Wizards would secure a 75-69 victory and claim the best-of-seven series four games to one.
The Wizards advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs for just the third time since 1979 by doing something that they hadn’t done in the history of the franchise, winning a seven-game series in just five games. Wall scored a game-high 24 points and celebrated by tossing the ball out to Trevor Ariza on the other end of the court. Ariza slammed the ball to the hardwood and Wall darted to him and gave him a hug.
Nene returned after serving a one-game suspension for head-butting and grabbing Jimmy Butler by the neck. The Wizards won Game 4 in Nene’s absence, getting a six-three-pointer, 30-point effort from Ariza, but they are certainly a better team with the Brazilian forward on the floor. Declining to discuss his suspension before the game, Nene wanted to focus instead on doing what it took to close out the Bulls, which was going to be a difficult since it was going to require Washington winning three games in Chicago.
In the Wizards’ first two wins of the series, Nene presented a huge problem to the Bulls with his ability to stretch the floor and hit jumpers. He also made several savvy plays to will his team. Those qualities were again on display Tuesday as he scored 20 points on 10 of 17 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. For the third time this series, Nene abused defensive player of the year Joakim Noah to the point where the Chicago center shook his head helplessly after Nene hitting a series of jumpers in the second half.
In the lowest scoring game of the series, the Wizards showed more grit and determination against a Bulls team that appeared to realize a while ago that it didn’t have enough offense to contend with Washington. The Wizards’ Beal scored 17 points. Gortat didn’t score much, but he grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds.
Washington now waits for the winner of the series between the Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks. The eight-seeded Hawks currently have a 3-2 lead on the top-seeded Pacers, who have been in a free fall for the past few months.
Andre Miller, who joined Washington as a backup point guard this season, had never won a playoff series in 15 seasons, playing the most regular season games in NBA history without ever advancing to the second round. Miller didn’t have his best game, going scoreless in 10 minutes. The 38-year-old Miller missed two free throws with 16 seconds remaining, but Nene tapped the ball out to Beal, who made a free throw.
Washington clinched the series in the same building where it experienced one of the franchise’s greatest moments in the past 10 years, when Gilbert Arenas pulled up over Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich and buried a jumper that dropped through the nets to give the Wizards a 3-2 series lead. The Wizards would go on to win the series in six games, but then experience three first-round exits and a lengthy rebuilding effort to get back in position to win another series.
MEMPHIS 100, OKLAHOMA CITY 99, OT
OKLAHOMA CITY — Mike Miller scored 21 points and Memphis held off Oklahoma City in a record fourth straight overtime game to take a 3-2 lead in the first-round series.
Oklahoma City rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Miller and called a timeout, trailing 100-99 with 2.9 seconds remaining. Kevin Durant of the Thunder missed a long 3-point attempt and teammate Serge Ibaka tipped the ball in on the rebound. The shot was reviewed and it was determined that it was released after the buzzer, ending the game.
Zach Randolph added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who will host Game 6 on Thursday.
Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City trailed by 20 points in the third quarter but trimmed its deficit to six by the start of the fourth quarter and finally took a 79-78 lead on a 3-pointer by Durant.
Consecutive baskets by Mike Conley put the Grizzlies up 87-82 with just under 4 minutes to play.
L.A. CLIPPERS 113, GOLDEN STATE 103
LOS ANGELES — Hours after owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life, the Los Angeles Clippers returned to an energized Staples Center and beat the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.
DeAndre Jordan had 25 points, a playoff career high, and 18 rebounds while Chris Paul scored 20 points.
Commissioner Adam Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million and called on NBA owners to force him to sell the team for making racist comments.
The Clippers were greeted with a standing ovation when they came out for pregame warmups.
Players from both teams wore black socks.
The Clippers are on the brink of just their third playoff series victory since Sterling bought the team in 1981. Game 6 is Thursday night in Oakland.
By wire sources