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Game recap – Bulls 83, Wizards 81: A not-so-sweet homecoming for Nene

chicago-bulls-v-washington-wizards-20131013-013937-182

Bulls 83 Wizards 81

October 12, 2013
HSBC Arena, Rio de Janero, Brazil
NBA.com boxscore/highlights

[divide]The Washington Wizards traveled internationally for this preseason game, matching up with the Chicago Bulls in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The matchup was the Wizards’ much heralded “home” game for its starting forward, Nene, who was mysteriously jeered by his native crowd during his pre-game address and other parts of the game.

While most spectators were anticipating a John Wall and Derrick Rose matchup, the Bulls sat their star player, along with Joakim Noah. Plugged in were the less flashy, but very effective Kirk Hinrich and Nazr Mohammed. The Wizards trotted out what may be its eventual starting lineup, which included the second straight for Trevor Ariza over Martell Webster.

The Wizards started this contest poorly, slowed down by bad jump shooting and turnovers. Brad Beal had a nice start, scoring the team’s first seven points, but his productivity slowed once the Bulls became quicker at rotating defensively against him. Defensively, they had trouble guarding Nazr Mohammed and Tahj Gibson, who combined for 12 first quarter points.

John Wall also looked a little tentative on the perimeter, missing a couple of wide-open jumpers. Once the second unit entered the game, however, the Wizards gained their form. Martell Webster converted a four-point play and closed the quarter hitting a second long jumper. The Wizards also received solid contributions from Kevin Seraphin and Eric Maynor.

Randy Wittman sat his starters well into the second quarter, as his bench remained valuable (albeit on only one side of the ball). The offensive momentum from the end of the first quarter, however, slowed as the Bulls shot solidly from the floor, including good effort from Jimmy Butler, Marquis Teague, and Gibson (whose field goal percentage remained well over 70% well into the second quarter). Conversely, the Wizards played an unremarkable second quarter. Wall appeared to freelance after entering the game at about the 5:30 mark and did not log his first point until hitting a free throw after going 0-4 from the floor. The team as a whole would close the first half shooting 28% from the field.

In the second half, the Wizards played at a better tempo and received better contributions from a combination of its starters and bench. Ariza, Seraphin, and Webster. Wall still did not contribute much offensively, but he got out in the fast break and pushed the ball, creating easier offensive opportunities.

In the fourth quarter, the Wizards executed the best they had the entire night. After enduring more scoring in the paint from the Bulls’ Carlos Boozer and perimeter scoring from Luol Deng, Washington made some great plays to crawl back to within a point of the lead. They’d get ahead on a three pointer from Glen Rice, Jr., who presumably played well enough tonight to earn additional minutes.

In the end, despite a spirited comeback, the Wizards were unable to make enough key plays to grab the win. They fall 83-81.
[divide]MVP: Martell Webster – 15 pts, 3 rebs, 3-6 3PT

On a night when the Wizards could not seem to keep its offense in gear, Webster showcased the great shooting form that landed him a new contract this past offseason. He logged 15 points, which included 3-6 from three point range and an overall 4-8 from the floor.

While Martell has been lobbying in training camp for Ariza to have the starting job, I wonder if the coaching staff can afford to leave Webster’s scoring ability on the bench to start games.

LVP: Nene – 5 pts, 6 reb, 1-6 FG

Despite playing in an NBA historic first “home” game, Nene put up a lackluster effort. Tagging him the “LVP” tonight feels a little like dog piling because he’d asked the coaching staff for limited minutes before making the trip to Brazil, but his effort in the smaller gameplay window was pretty forgettable. In 20 minutes of gameplay, Nene scored 5 points on 1-6 from the floor. He pulled down 6 rebounds, but did little to stop the Bulls’ frontcourt when he was in the game.

In a season that has already been mired by losing a starter, the Wizards will simply need more front Nene.

Key stat of the game: 33% FG (27-82, 8-24 3PT)

While preseason is primarily about working players into regular season form, the Wizards’ dismal shooting. The team struggled mightily in the first half and did not fare much better the rest of he way, ending with an embarrassing field goal percentage of 33% (27-82, 8-24 from 3 point range).

As shown tonight, the Wizards’ defense will likely continue to create some easy opportunities, but they have to play better in half court sets.

What’s next:

The Wizards will head home for a home game against the Miami Heat. Challenges remain on both sides of the ball, but I’m less concerned about the Wizards core finding its consistency as I am about the team’s finding a rotation for its big men. It’s unknown when Nene will be able to log starter’s minutes, and Booker still has yet to find an offensive game.

On the bright side, I think Seraphin played well enough at least earn a start in the next game. The same can be said for Martell Webster.

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