January 12, 2016 – United Center, Chicago, IL
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.