Nene was suspended for this one, but Trevor Ariza picked up his slack and then some, scoring 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting and 6-of-10 from long range. The Wizards defense absolutely suffocated the Bulls, who didn't get closer than within six points of the lead in the second half.
The big difference between the Wizards' Game 3 loss and Sunday afternoon was the defensive intensity. The Wizards forced the Bulls into 16 turnovers -- they committed just six of their own -- stole the ball eight times and were terrors on the fast break. The Bulls had no answers for the perimeter athleticism of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Ariza.
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The 1 p.m. ET start to the game affected the Bulls, or they just stunk it up in the early going. They missed their first three shots from the field and fell behind 11-0 and 17-2. Marcin Gortat picked up two fouls early, and, without Nene, Randy Wittman was forced to play Trevor Booker and Drew Gooden in the frontcourt.
The Bulls crawled back in the game to cut the lead to four points, thanks almost exclusively to Taj Gibson. The Bulls' backup big man scored 20 points -- the rest of the team scored 20 -- and dominated Booker, Gooden and Al Harrington on both ends of the court.
When Gortat and the rest of the Wizards starters re-entered the game in the second quarter, the game shifted again. Wall and Beal sparked a huge run, but no Wizard was bigger than Ariza, who scored 17 points, including a buzzer-beating corner three-pointer at the end of the half off a dynamite kick-out pass from Beal to put Wizards ahead by 15 points at intermission.
It took eight minutes for Tom Thibodeau to put Gibson into the game in the third quarter, and the Bulls were down 17 points by the time he did. By then, it was too late. Ariza was on fire, but more importantly, the Wizards defense was better than it had been pretty much all season. Making the Bulls offense look terrible isn't difficult, but the Wizards were flying around, jumping into passing lanes and making life difficult for everyone but Gibson.
The fourth quarter was just an exercise in consistency for the Wizards, following through on the same game plan that got them the lead. In the end, Wall finished with 15 points and 10 assists; Beal had 18, five and three.
Gibson was Mr. Everything for the Bulls -- 32 points on 13-of-16 shooting -- while Noah grabbed 15 rebounds, but the Bulls looked like a vastly inferior team, not to mention they looked exhausted. The Thibodeau magic could finally be wearing out. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Chicago.