The Wizards beat the Bulls at their own game, employing a vice-grip defense that clamped down on Chicago's already anemic offense.
Washington allowed just 69 points in their Game 5 clincher over Chicago on Tuesday night, and generally out-hustled and muscled the Bulls, despite the NBA defensive player of the year Joakim Noah's best efforts.
No sequence was a better microcosm of the series than the three consecutive offensive rebounds F Marcin Gortat secured as the Bulls tried to claw their way back into the game with under two minutes left, trailing by three. Chicago looked gassed, defeated and demoralized, all at once.
Whether it was Gortat (13 rebounds in Game 5), Nene raining 15-foot jumpers, or Washington's stellar young guard combo of John Wall and Brad Beal spreading the floor with their three-point shooting, there was simply nothing Chicago could do to plug in the gaps.
“They had no holes on that team and a lot of talent – a lot of talent,” said Joakim Noah to The Washington Post, who rarely offers compliments to teams that just bullied his own Bulls. “Young guys. A lot of vets. Guys that have been there before and you've got to give that team a lot of credit. They came in and they deserved it.”
It would be Game 5 at the United Center on Tuesday – Chicago's sixth-straight home playoff loss.
Look at what happened in Game 4, with Nene out due to suspension. Trevor Booker filled in and nearly had himself a double-double, while Trevor Ariza poured in 30 points. Not many gave Washington a chance against the over-achieving Bulls, but the Wizards' depth was undeniable in their first playoff series since 2008.
And with a second-round matchup looming against either the Hawks or a fracturing Pacers team, no one will be quick to dismiss this green but feisty Washington bunch.
As coach Randy Wittman said: “There's nothing to celebrate yet. As I told our guys, let's move on now. Let's see what we can do here.”