CHICAGO (AP) — Playoff appearances were rare enough for the Washington Wizards, let alone series victories. Never mind all that now.
John Wall finished with 24 points, Nene scored 20 and the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 75-69 on Tuesday night to clinch their first-round NBA series in five games.
Bradley Beal scored 17 points, and the fifth-seeded Wizards advanced in the postseason for just the third time since the 1970s.
They will meet Indiana or Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Hawks lead the series 3-2.
It’s a huge step for a franchise that hadn’t been to the postseason since 2008, but with Wall and Beal leading the way, they won 44 games during the regular season.
“It just shows our continued growth,” Beal said. “We played great basketball in this series, and we can only continue to get better and better.”
As for the Bulls?
“It is real disappointing,” Taj Gibson said. “We put so much work into the season, came out of countless holes.”
The Wizards turned a halftime tie into a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and hung on down the stretch.
Chicago’s comeback chances took a big hit early in the final quarter when Gibson crumbled to the court clutching his left ankle after he tried to block a layup by Wall with the Wizards up by six points. He had to be helped off the court and did not return.
The Bulls got within three points in the closing minutes but couldn’t grab rebounds when they needed them, particularly after D.J. Augustin hit two free throws to make it 72-69 with 2:18 left.
The Wizards grabbed three offensive rebounds while whittling more than a minute off the clock before Beal threw the ball away with a minute left in the game.
Carlos Boozer missed on a drive, but the Bulls couldn’t convert after a shot-clock violation by Washington with 22.4 seconds left. Chicago’s Jimmy Butler missed on a layup off the inbounds, and the Wizards caught a break after Andre Miller missed two free throws.