Bulls vs. Wizards game 5 recap: the peak of offensive ineptitude

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls, who were a poor offensive team all year (even at the peak of the point-center era) managed to save their worst performance for the final game of the season, losing 75-69 to the Wizards in game 5. They shot 33% from the field.

Despite pleas and (I can only assume) human sacrifices made in tribute, Tom Thibodeau stuck with his same starting lineup and was once again vulnerable to a slow start. However, in spite of Carlos Boozer existing, the Bulls didn't start quite as badly, and were even through the first 6 minutes. They were still doing so without actually shooting well, limiting turnovers and getting offensive rebounds. but the Wizards had a much easier time, staying hot from midrange. Nene led that effort, as he returned from his 1-game suspension and hit 3 jumpers early.

The Bulls couldn't hit anything from the outside. 1 of 12 from outside the restricted area,  0/5 from three, and 26% overall in that first quarter. The immediate start may not have been dreadful, and it looked like the Bulls certainly were giving their best effort (forcing turnovers, getting rebounds) but that awful offense had them down 8 entering the second quarter.

The second quarter was completely flipped, with the Bulls going on a 17-4 run to take a lead, and scoring a vast majority of their points from this outside including 3/3 three-pointers. Kirk Hinrich hit 2 of them (he was our best perimeter player tonight, ugh) and Taj Gibson was doing his usual hey-I'm-not-Boozer-remember things. The game was tied entering halftime, with the Bulls showing some improvements from the games prior: defensively they kept the Wizards off the 3-point line (1-5 shooting, and wound up being 2-9 all game), and offensively their single turnover resulted in an embarrassing Trevor Booker coast-to-coast dunk but it was just that one.

Then in the 3rd quarter the Bulls turned the ball over 5 times in the first 6 minutes, and coupled with some long misses helped get the Wiz out to some transition baskets. Truth be told, Washington didn't play that great in this quarter (Wall was 0-5), but those easier opportunities were enough plus some tough baskets from Beal (4-4) and Nene (4-5).

Nene was fantastic all game, actually, really taking it to Joakim Noah yet again. Some of the makes were a bit lucky and had Jo shaking his head in disbelief, but the Wizards big man is supremely talented and showed it again. He finished with 20 pts on 10-17 shooting, and while Noah did have 18 rebounds and 7 assists he only had 6 points. Noah also looked a bit injured throughout the game, and especially so after a moment early in the 4th quarter. He revealed afterwards he was playing through a left knee 'issue' that has yet to be diagnosed.

That 4th was, to be honest, mostly a death-march. Even though it started with a 5-0 Bulls run to cut the deficit to 4, it was coming off the 3rd quarter where the Bulls scored 11 total points. Thus, any Wizards lead seemed insurmountable.

Especially so when Taj Gibson rolled an ankle and had to miss the final 4 minutes of the game, meaning Boozer 4th quarter playing time.

After all this, still, the Bulls had it as close as 3 at a couple points late in the game, but the end was ultimately emblematic of their postseason gone awry. With Gibson out (he shot 3-10 for 12 points after his career-high in game 4), the Bulls looked especially beat: kept missing layups, and were giving up tons of offensive rebounds up until the end. On a single possession Marcin Gortat tipped out 3 teammate misses. And yes, that was Boozer's man.

Washington only scored 14 points in the fourth quarter (and were 3-6 from the line) but it was more than enough to win.

John Wall did have 9 of the points in that closing frame, including a devastating step-back over Hinrich to keep the Bulls at bay. Like for much of the series, Wall didn't shoot particularly great but controlled the game in other ways, finishing with 24 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and only a single turnover. Beal capped off his great series with 17 points on 6-13 shooting.

Meanwhile on the other side, Hinrich and Butler had 16 but they were the only players to shoot over 40% for the Bulls. Dunleavy was 2-8, and Augustin capped off a poor series with a 1-10 performance.

I think there's something to be learned from this matchup, and how the Bulls were fairly systematically drubbed. Sure, the final margins were mostly close, but that speaks to the nature of slow-paced playoff basketball and shouldn't suggest that the Bulls were just a mere strategic or even luck-based difference from winning. They lost 4 out of 5 games, 3 of them at home, to a team that they looked to be better than heading into the postseason. We should examine just how much 'heading into' means relative to the real thing. Because ever since the playoffs kicked off, the Wizards were the better team.

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