If Washington Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal had to fight through some playoff jitters during Game 1, they accomplished that task by Game 2. The Wizards took a 2-0 series lead against the Chicago Bulls with a 101-99 overtime win in Chicago April 22, with Game 3 and Game 4 to be played April 25 and 27 in Washington, D.C.
Wall and Beal looked like a couple of playoff-savvy veterans, each turning in stellar performances during the second playoff games of their careers. Beal led all scorers with 26 points and seven rebounds, while Wall ran the offense like a true floor general, scoring 16 points and adding seven assists.
"I told both those young guys (Wall and Beal) that I want them coming out and playing with great confidence without seeing any hesitation, and that's what their response was," coach Randy Wittman said. "John is that way. I really don't ever have to worry about John from a confidence standpoint. John believes every night he is going to come out and play great."
Washington scored more than 100 points during both two playoff games against Chicago, the league's best defensive team during the regular season. Chicago also struggles on offense, and was the NBA's lowest-scoring team during the regular season.
With former MVP point guard Derrick Rose sidelined after 10 games because of right knee surgery, and two-time All-Star Luol Deng traded to Cleveland at midseason, the Bulls lack a dependable scoring threat, giving the Wizards an advantage they can exploit with strong defensive play.
"Defensively, we got stops," Wittman said. "We finally got a little more aggressive with [guard D.J.] Augustin, and we got consecutive stops. That is what won the game. [Augustin] put us in a situation to let us win with Beal's last shot. It was our defense and rebounding that did it for us."
Wall, who made his first All-Star Game this season, appears to be ready for the playoff stage.
"I think we did a great job of staying calm and composed," Wall said. "Early in the season, we would get rattled. Guys would try to make plays one-on-one. Tonight, we trusted our offense. We made the big shots and got offensive rebounds. Guys stepped up and got defensive stops down the stretch."
Beal, despite the 2-0 series lead, stressed the importance of continuing to play with a sense of urgency and not letting up, something the Wizards have had to learn how to do this season.
"This is a learning process for us," Beal said. "We've come such a long way starting with last year. The growth that we have had this year, the assets we have brought in -- throughout the whole year, we've been growing and growing. Now, in the playoffs, we're playing for something bigger.
"[Making the playoffs] was our main goal coming into the season, but we're not satisfied. We have higher goals and higher standards. We've learned a lot of things along the way."