JOHN WALL finished with 24 points, Nene scored 20, and the Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls, 75-69, last night to clinch their first-round series in five games.
Bradley Beal scored 17 points, and the fifth-seeded Wizards advanced in the postseason for only the third time since the 1970s. They will meet Indiana or Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
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.
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 Taj 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 cut it to 70-67 on a jumper by Carlos Boozer with 3:32 left. Wall then poked the ball away from Boozer and nailed a jumper at the shot-clock buzzer. Chicago hit two free throws with 2:18 remaining to cut it back down to three, but 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.
Boozer missed on a drive, but the Bulls had another chance 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.
Beal tracked down the loose ball and hit the first free throw to make it 73-69 with 14.6 seconds left before missing the second. But again, the Wizards got the rebound. This time it was Nene, and that led to two free throws by Wall with 7.8 seconds remaining.
Wall and Nene, back from a one-game suspension for grabbing Butler's head, both had seven rebounds. Marcin Gortat scored just two points, but grabbed 13 boards.
Butler and Kirk Hinrich scored 16 points each and Gibson had 12.
* A former assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors reportedly recorded conversations of coaches and players without their knowledge before being fired by the team earlier this month.
ESPN, citing anonymous sources, reported that Darren Erman secretly recorded coaches' meetings, conversations between coaches and players, and informal discussions. It's unclear what Erman did with the alleged recordings.
Golden State fired Erman on April 5 for what the team called a "violation of company policy." The Warriors neither confirmed nor denied the report yesterday, saying only that they "were unaware of the violation, and when made aware, we took immediate action."
Erman already has landed a job with another team. A spokesman for the Boston Celtics confirmed to the Associated Press that the team hired Erman as an NBA scout.