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Wizards’ Nene hard for Bulls to handle

Updated: April 20, 2014 10:33PM



Exactly eight weeks after his last start, the Washington Wizards’ Nene drove from the left wing to the rim for a dunk, with the Bulls’ Carlos Boozer doing little to stop him.

It was 27 seconds into Game 1 of the Bulls’ first-round playoff series Sunday against the Wizards at the United Center, but it was telling.

A layup, a driving layup and a jumper later, Nene jogged to the bench for the first time, having scored eight points in six minutes. He couldn’t keep up the same pace when he returned, but it was close.

Nene finished the first half with 14 points in 15 minutes, making seven of his 10 shots. He added 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the second half and finished with 24 in the Wizards’ 102-93 victory.

It seems to be more than a coincidence that the Bulls’ only victory in four games against the Wizards this season came when Nene didn’t play because of an injury.

‘‘He’s a terrific player,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. ‘‘He gets to his spot. He’s unselfish. He can make plays. He also can play away from the basket. You allow him to get an open
15-foot shot, he’s going to make that, as well.

‘‘Defensively, he pressures the ball. He’s got good hands. He played a very good game for them.’’

A sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee suffered
Feb. 23 cost Nene 21 games. He missed the Bulls’ 96-78 victory April 5 in Washington and returned only 12 days ago for a crucial game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Nene, whose name is Portuguese for ‘‘baby,’’ worked his way back into game shape by coming off the bench in four of the Wizards’ final
five games, skipping only the
second game of a back-to-back. He averaged 14.3 points on 65.8 percent shooting in 20.8 minutes in those games.

‘‘Getting his legs back under him,’’ Wizards coach Randy Witt-
man said. ‘‘It was good that he could play and wasn’t thrust into a Game 1 of the playoffs for his first game back.’’

Judging by Nene’s performance Sunday, the plan worked.

‘‘He’s an All-Star talent,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s dealt with some injuries this year. ‘‘He gives them added depth, and he’s an all-around player. . . . We know how good he is.’’

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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