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Game Notebook 36, Wizards at Bulls: John Wall The Matador, And Another Killing Of the Bulls

Wizards 114
Bulls 100

January 12, 2016 – United Center, Chicago, IL

NBA Stats Box Score

The Wizards came into this season a team aiming to prove themselves as viable contenders to the Eastern Conference throne. A group of young stars – some aspiring and some established – was appointed as the team’s nucleus to serve as not only catalysts for the present, but a foundation for the future. Unfortunately, after 35 games into the season, only 16 have resulted in wins, as the Wizards have merely been entrapped in a floating bubble of exhausting mediocrity. But every now and then this season, that exhaustion has been simmered with an elusive great performance on the road against a top-tier conference rival amidst a general deluge of not-so-good performances against all others. Earlier this season, the Wizards unsaddled the Cavs in Cleveland. Less than a week later, they cooled down the Heat in Miami. Last night, in what has become their true home away from home – the United Center in Chicago – The Wizards, led by John Wall as the matador, once again killed the Bulls and, once again, took down a top-seeded team in the East.

There’s something in the Illinois air that incites any Randy Wittman-led Wizards team any time they inhale it. The Wizards have been a poor team by several measures going into this game and a previously victorious outing in Orlando two nights before hadn’t changed that. They are a team struggling with injuries and the franchise point guard is at his wits trying to cope with them. The defense has regressed insurmountably since the start of the season with very few signs of it getting better. They had lost 5 of their previous 7 games and worse yet, they were without their Polish anchor in the middle, Marcin Gortat. Yet from the moment they stepped onto the United hardwood, nothing else mattered.

While we pray for the Hammer’s recovery from his apparent knee infection, the timing of his absence was a disguised factor to the Wizards’ success last night. With Gortat out, Nene stepped in and promptly dictated his presence, occupying the floor to the tune of 14 points on 7-11 shooting. Joakim Noah, who finally returned from a shoulder injury after missing 9 games, most likely wished he hadn’t. He was enslaved once again by Nene, held scoreless on 0-7 shooting.

The Wizards led by as many 17 before the 4th quarter, and by 11 at the start of the final period, seemingly having the Bulls under their control and on the verge of clear defeat. But that’s when the Bulls got aggravated and sought to regain control of the ring. A quick 7-0 run brought them to within 4 and with just under 9 minutes to go, they were still within the matador’s heart trailing by just 6. But that’s when our beloved matador John Wall, the city’s hero, the enchanter of hearts, reminded the crowd that this ring was still his grazing land. Waving his capote at the trying Bulls defense, Wall dizzied his foes with a combination of jump shots and assists. His 3-point sword swing from 24 feet out put the Wizards up by 16, and put the Bull to his final death.

The Game’s Top Performer

Nene – 14 points; 7-11 FG; 1 steal; 1 block

While John Wall inflicted the most pain and weakened the Bulls, it was Nene as the second matador who rallied around them and served his own blows. Prior to the game, Nene’s status was questionable, with reports that he was “trying” to overcome a triceps injury. Judging by his game-time decision to play and the great performance by him that followed, it, in fact, became unquestionable that Nene had no intention of missing this game or missing a chance to face Joakim Noah. In the end, Joakim Noah provided more donuts on his stat sheet than a Krispy Kreme box, while Nene filled up the majority of his in just under 20 minutes of burn. It’s very likely that somewhere in the list of most hated figures in the city of Chicago resides Nene, probably right after Steve Bartmen.

A forgettable night for..

Taj Gibson and E’Twaun Moore

Their reaction from the bench after Otto Porter drained a shot clock-beating fadeaway was enough to express the consensus despair of every Bulls fan.

Other Takeaways:

  • John Wall vs. Derrick Rose

    This isn’t quite the marquee point guard matchup it once was, mostly because of Rose’s slow-processing regression, but last night proved it’s still worth, at the very least, a $29.95 Pay-Per-View subscription. Rose finished with 23 points on 8-13 shooting but a plus/minus of -25 and just one assist and four turnovers. Wall finished with 17 points and 10 assists with just two turnovers which is huge on any given evening considering Wall’s influx of turnovers in recent games. Both players went pound for pound, using screens to elude one another for open shots, playing good defense to get a steal or a block. But by the 12th round, Rose had worn down, playing in just under 5 minutes, scoring only 2 of his 23 points and committing 3 turnovers, while Wall scored 7 points, had 3 assists and 0 turnovers. Winner by TKO: John Wall.

  • The bench.

    Nothing provides a team more sustenance than a well-performing second unit that can ease the additional workload of a depleted roster. Gary Neal and Ramon Sessions have consistently been great off the bench for the Wizards this season but last night, we also got a healthy dose of Drew Gooden. Gooden finished with 12 rebounds and provided his usual spark in the paint. He outhustled just about everyone underneath the rim for second chance opportunities by way of 7 offensive rebounds and served as a crucial momentum booster. The Wiz bench outscored Chicago’s 47-32.

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