The Wizards trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, but they chipped away at the deficit and finally caught the Bulls midway through the fourth quarter. Andre Miller provided some quality minutes at the outset of the final frame, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth.
A bucket by Marcin Gortat with 3:43 left put the Wizards up two, and they wouldn't trail again the rest of the way. Washington locked down defensively and forced Chicago into a ton of poor shots, going on an 18-6 run to close the game. The Wizards outscored the Bulls 30-18 in the fourth quarter.
Nene, making his first start since Feb. 23, led the Wizards with 24 points and eight rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Gortat notched a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Trevor Ariza had 18 points. John Wall and Bradley Beal combined to shoot just 7-of-25, but they went 15-of-17 from the line.
Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin had 16 points apiece for the Bulls, but they combined to shoot just 10-of-31 from the field. Chicago shot just 42.0 percent overall and 5-of-20 from three, really laboring down the stretch. Jimmy Butler added 15 points and seven rebounds in the loss.
Nene got off to a great start against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joakim Noah. Nene's eight early points gave the Wizards a six-point lead, but a Bulls spurt led Butler and Carlos Boozer made it a two-point game heading into the second quarter.
Washington held the lead at the outset of the second quarter and got Chicago in some foul trouble, but a bevy of missed free throws kept the game close despite Nene's continued excellence. The Bulls' bench duo of Augustin and Taj Gibson then keyed an 18-7 run, with Augustin doing much of his work at the free-throw line and Gibson doing damage on the offensive glass. Augustin capped off a 32-point Bulls second quarter with an and-1, sending Chicago into the break with a 54-48 lead.
The Bulls kept the offense going in the third quarter, with Mike Dunleavy catching fire after a woeful first half. Dunleavy buried three triples to push Chicago's lead out to double-digits, but a frenzied pace led to some sloppiness and a run by Washington. The Wizards trimmed a 13-point deficit to just one late in the third, and the margin was just three heading into the final frame, setting up the tight finish.
The Wizards will look to go up 2-0 at the United Center on Tuesday night.