The Chicago Bulls couldn't stop the bleeding, so they bled to death. The offense got tight and couldn't manufacture anything resembling a decent look. Joakim Noah didn't have the ball enough; Kirk Hinrich had it too much. Shooters passed up open looks because shots weren't falling, and the result was the type of completely inept late shot clock possessions we've seen throughout this season. As Nene continued to blast a Chicago defensive frontline that again looked like it couldn't handle him physically, it was enough for the Bulls to cough up a 13-point third quarter lead, and enough for the Wizards to lock down a 102-93 victory in the opening game of this first round series.
After a 32-point second quarter that saw Chicago take a six-point lead into halftime, the wheels fell off Tom Thibodeau's offense. The second half was a microcosm of the Bulls' offensive struggles all season. With no go-to scorer, the Bulls need to get points in the flow of the offense. When that offense is being disrupted by cutters bodied off their lines and missed jumpers from the perimeter, it can get ugly very quick. That's exactly what happened in Game 1. The Bulls finished the second half shooting just 39 percent from the floor. They missed layups, they missed free throws, they missed three-pointers.
This looked promising for a while. Mike Dunleavy hit three three-pointers in the third to push the Bulls' lead to double-digits, but no one knew what to do when those shots stopped falling. Save for a beautiful alley-oop lob to Jimmy Butler, the Wizards were able to take away Joakim Noah's facilitation. Instead, the Bulls dribbled too much when they were missing threes, and those drives repeatedly led to failed shots in the paint. When Hinrich is taking 10 more shots than Noah, as he did in Game 1, the Bulls are going to be in a lot of trouble.
It's worth noting that Hinrch and the Bulls' other guards did a fine job on John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington's starting backcourt combined to go 7-for-25. Is it good sign Chicago was able to limit the damage from the Wizards' stars, or a bad sign that they still lost while doing so? The more apparent truth was that the Bulls have no answer for Nene, who sure looked healthy across 35 minutes.
Nene was always going to be a key in this series, and he didn't waste any time proving it. He scored eight points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 24 points for the night on 11-of-17 shooting. The Bulls were able to get him in foul trouble, but they couldn't get him off the floor. Trevor Ariza's shooting, Marcin Gortat's strong interior play and a couple solid Andre Miller stints off the bench gave Washington all the supplemental scoring it needed. The Bulls simply couldn't keep up. Chicago was out-rebounded (45-39), out-assisted (21-13) and out-shot badly both from the field and three.
And so the home court advantage the Bulls enjoyed is gone before it ever really began. There is still plenty of basketball left to be played, and I'm not worried sick just yet. With that being said, this is still a tough loss to swallow because the Bulls had it. They were in control. Control can be surrendered one Hinrich brick at a time, and that realization smacked Chicago in the head on Easter.
They'll get 'em next time, I guess. Game 2 is Tuesday at the United Center.