CHICAGO: Bradley Beal scored a game-high 26 points to spark Washington over Chicago 101-99 in extra time yesterday, giving the Wizards their best NBA play-off start in 32 years.
Brazilian forward Nene scored 17 points and John Wall added 16 as the Wizards seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series with games three and four tomorrow and Sunday in Washington.
“We still feel like we have to be humble,” Beal said. “We are up 2-0 but we need to feel like we’re 1-0. We just have to have a sense of urgency coming home and protect our home court.”
It’s the first time in franchise history that Washington won the first two games on the road to open a series and the first time since 1982 they won the first two games in a play-off series.
East top seed Indiana and Toronto each won at home yesterday to level their first-round match-ups, with the Pacers beating Atlanta 101-85 and Toronto downing Brooklyn 100-95 to deadlock each series at 1-1.
But in Chicago, where the Bulls’ Joakim Noah was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, the hosts’ bid to equalise failed because they could not stop 20-year-old guard Beal.
“He made some big shots for us,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “He was confident for us. He stayed aggressive even through misses. Bradley made some big plays for us coming down the stretch.”
The Wizards led by as many as 17 points but the Bulls outscored them 26-14 in the third quarter and stretched their edge as large as 87-77 in the fourth quarter.
But Washington ended the fourth quarter on a 14-4 run, equalising on a Beal free throw to force extra time.
Chicago managed only two baskets over more than 10 minutes, missing 12 shots in a row and falling behind 97-91 in the extra period before battling back.
Noah made two free throws with 34 seconds to play to trim the score to the final margin. A Beal miss gave Chicago the ball and Nene fouled Kirk Hinrich with 2.4 seconds remaining.
But Hinrich missed the first free throw and then deliberately missed the second, hoping to grab a rebound and make a tying basket. Instead, the Wizards got the ball and ran out the clock.
“It was a great team effort,” Beal said. “We did a great job sticking with them and we got a great win.”
D J Augustin came off the bench to lead Chicago with 25 points while reserve Taj Gibson added 22 and Noah had 20 and 12 rebounds.
At Toronto, the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points and took charge in the final minutes as the Raptors won their first playoff victory since 2008.
“It’s really big,” DeRozan said. “We know we can beat them. We gave away a tough game the first game. Now we know how to beat them.”
Joe Johnson led the Nets with 18 points while Deron Williams had 15. REUTERS