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Wizards 75, Bulls 69

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CHICAGO – Guard John Wall scored 24 points and capped off his first career playoff series by leading the Washington Wizards to a 75-69 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Tuesday, clinching the best-of-seven first-round playoff series 4-1.

Washington won a playoff series for the first time since 2005, when it beat the Bulls, and for just the second time since 1982.

The Wizards will face the winner of the Indiana-Atlanta series, which the No. 8-seeded Hawks lead 3-2.

Coming off a one-game suspension for head-butting Jimmy Butler, Wizards forward Nene delivered another strong offensive performance, scoring 20 points. He was nearly automatic on his quick lean-back jumpers in this series.

Guard Bradley Beal added 17 points for the Wizards, while center Marcin Gortat grabbed 13 rebounds.

Chicago shot just 33.3 percent from the field.

Trailing by nine points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bulls closed within 65-62 on guard Kirk Hinrich’s 3-pointer. Wall answered with a 3-pointer of his own and later added a fast-break scoop to put Washington ahead 70-62 with 5:23 remaining.

A 3-pointer by Butler and jumper from forward Carlos Boozer brought Chicago back within 70-67. After the teams traded points, Washington took more than a minute off the clock when Gortat grabbed or tipped three straight offensive rebounds.

The Bulls finally got it back, but Boozer missed a driving attempt.

After forcing a 24-second violation, Chicago got another chance trailing by three with 22.4 seconds on the clock. The Bulls tried to run a quick-hitter to Butler, who missed a layup attempt.

Chicago could have gotten another chance to tie when guard Andre Miller missed a pair of free throws with 16.2 seconds left, but Nene tipped the offensive rebound back out and the Wizards finished the scoring at the foul line.

The Bulls are no strangers to injury bad luck, with former MVP Derrick Rose missing all but 10 games this season with a knee injury. With 7:51 left in the fourth quarter, forward Taj Gibson was helped off the court after turning his left ankle while trying to block a Wall shot attempt.

Earlier in the second half, center Joakim Noah limped noticeably after appearing to get hit in the right knee by teammate Mike Dunleavy while fighting for a defensive rebound.

Hinrich and Butler led the Bulls with 16 points each. Gibson scored 12 and Boozer 10, with Noah pulling down a game-high 18 rebounds.

The Bulls were focused on getting off to a better start after falling behind 14-0 in Sunday’s Game 4. It went OK for a while, with Chicago holding a 10-9 lead midway through the first quarter. But the Bulls went on a cold-shooting streak, hitting just one of their next 15 shots and fell behind 28-16.

Chicago snapped out of its offensive funk and went on a 17-4 run, taking a 37-36 lead on a Noah jumper.

The score was tied 41-41 at halftime, which was a noticeable improvement by the Bulls’ defense. In the first four games of the series, Washington averaged 52.5 points in the first half.

The Wizards controlled the third quarter, limiting Chicago to 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting (25 percent). Washington scored seven straight points in the middle of the quarter, opening a 56-48 advantage with 5:13 left on Nene’s jumper.

By the end of the third quarter, the Wizards led 61-52 and Chicago was shooting just 32.2 percent as a team.

NOTES: Both coaches in the series have ties to Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau was on Rivers’ staff in Boston from 2008-10, while Washington’s Randy Wittman played with Rivers on the Atlanta Hawks from 1983-88. “I’m trying to be there for him,” Wittman said before Tuesday’s game. “I think he’s handled it as well as he can handle it. I just wanted to be there to support him and try to help him get his mind back to where it should be, and that’s playing basketball.” … The Bulls trailed 3-1 in nine playoff series and lost each time. … Washington took a 3-1 lead in the playoffs five times previously and won every series, but they lost Game 5 every time in that scenario. The Wizards made it six straight series wins after leading 3-1 with Tuesday’s victory, but they won Game 5 this time. … In the first four games of the series, Wizards F Trevor Ariza shot 48.1 percent (13-for-27) from 3-point range.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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