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Wizards Upset Bulls in Series Opener

Making his first start since February, Nene led the Wizards to victory over the Bulls.

Making his first start since February, Nene led the Wizards to victory over the Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have fought off adversity for much of the season, succeeding where most expected them to fail, but on Sunday the side’s trademark grittiness wasn’t enough to earn victory as the Washington Wizards netted an upset victory in the Windy City.

The Wizards defeated the Bulls 102-93 at United Center to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

While much has been written about Chicago’s remarkable success in the wake of Derrick Rose’s injury and Luol Deng trade, it was Washington that proved to be the more resilient side on Sunday, coming from 13 points down in the third quarter to take the victory.

With the highly-touted backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal making its debut in the postseason, it was the Wizards’ veterans that sparked the team to victory. Playing like his younger self, Nene had a huge game as he tallied 14 of his 24 points in the first half. He also added eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block for good measure before fouling out.

Trevor Ariza, an NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009, added 18 points and seven rebounds, while Marcin Gortat notched a double-double with 15 points and 13 boards, five of which came at the offensive end. As for Wall and Beal, the duo combined for 7-of-25 shooting from the field and 15-of-17 from the free throw line to net 29 points.

The Bulls shared the wealth with seven of the nine players taking to the hardwood scoring in double figures.

Joakim Noah tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds (5 offensive). Kirk Hinrich, once a member of the Wizards, and D.J. Augustin both scored 16 points while Jimmy Butler had 15. Carlos Boozer (15pts), Taj Gibson (12pts) and Mike Dunleavey (11pts) filled out the double-digit scoring list.

But it was Chicago’s inability to hold on to a lead that has some worried in the Windy City. The Wizards clawed back a 13-point deficit in the third, before an 18-6 advantage in the final six minutes of play saw the team on to victory.

“We definitely have to play better on defense,” Noah told reporters following the game, “and it starts with me.”

After a season that has seen the 7-footer become the focal point of the team, both on the court – where he routinely flirts with triple-doubles – and in the locker room, his estimations of the team and his shouldering of the blame for the defeat are anything but by rote. This is a player that has willed his team onto victory this season and isn’t about to give up without a fight. For Noah, all Game 1 did was inject perspective into proceedings. Expect the big man to come out strong in Game 2.

Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls odds for 04/22/2014

The Bulls host the Wizards on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET) in the second game of the best-of-seven series.

Chicago (-240) opened as the moneyline favorite over Washington (+200) once more but bettors are likely to be a little more hesitant about backing the home team this time around.

Sunday’s victory saw the Wizards move to 5-5 all-time against the Bulls in the postseason; the Bulls (3-0) won a first round series in 1997 while the Wizards (4-2) emerged victorious in 2005.

The spread opened at 5.5 in favor of the Bulls.

The Wizards covered the spread (+5) in Saturday’s upset win, and are now 2-2-0 ATS against the Bulls this season and, more importantly, 2-0-0 ATS when playing at United Center.

The total opened at 181.5, slightly up on Sunday’s opening game (179), which saw the over pay out.

The over has cashed in during three of the four meetings between the sides this season, including both played in the Windy City.

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