Nene suspended for Game 4, Bulls must win this one

Nene suspended for Game 4, Bulls must win this one
Chicago Tribune

The NBA announced that Wizards' forward Maybyner Rodney Hilario (commonly known as Nene) has been suspended for Game 4 of the Bulls/Wizards Eastern Conference 1st-round playoff series.

Nene was ejected with 8:28 left in Game 3 for head-butting and grabbing the neck of Jimmy Butler. I'm not sure which is bigger- the fact that Mr. Hilario will miss Game 4, or that Butler finally woke up after the altercation.

Jimmy had been a complete non-factor on offense in the first 2 3/4 games of the series- he was 9/25 (36%) from the field, including 0/7 from behind the arc. He was only 7/11 from the FT line (63.6%) after shooting 76.9% during the regular season.

But after Nene looked to go all Brazilian jiu-jitsu on him, he immediately went down and hit his first 3 of the series to put the Bulls up 5. Then he really went assassin, drilling a 26-footer to break a 91-91 tie with 24.9 seconds left in the game. After John Wall pulled the Wizards back within a point, Jimmy calmly sank a pair from the FT line with 12.2 seconds on the clock to essentially ice the win for the Bulls.

If Butler can start hitting 3's like he did in last year's playoffs, when he shot over 40% on almost three attempts per game, all of a sudden the Bulls won't struggle nearly as much on offense. They will be able to spread the floor with Jimmy, Dunleavy and either Augustin or Hinrich (whichever one decides to start making more than a third of their 3pt attempts), opening things up for Noah and either Boozer or Gibson to go to work on the much slower Marcin Gortat.

Game 4 is now a must-win for the Bulls, even more so than it was to begin with. Without Nene, the Wizards will probably start Trevor Booker at PF. Not only should Boozer and Gibson be able to post up the 6'7" Booker at will, the Bulls should be able to play Butler at PF with Dunleavy, Hinrich and Augustin, which will really spread the floor and give the Bulls four 3pt shooters in the lineup. If Thibs chooses to do so, he will actually be able to play a lineup that is pretty good on offense without sacrificing much defense.

Drew Gooden and Al Harrington might see a lot of minutes at PF as well, and while they can score more than Booker, they are each old and slow and bad on defense nowadays.

Outside of Nene going 5/15 from the field in Game 3 (and he was due to miss a few shots after his combined 19/30 showing in the first two games), the Wizards couldn't have played much better on offense Friday night. Wall and Beal, their top two options on offense, combined for 48 points and 12 assists while shooting 46.9% from the field and 50.0% on eight 3pt attempts. They can't play much better than that, and the Bulls were still able to pull out the season-saving win.

And Noah cannot play much worse than he has the first three games of this series on offense- 12 points on 58.3% shooting looks good by itself, but he's only averaging 3.7 assists vs 4.0 turnovers per game. He has allowed Nene to get up in his face on the perimeter without punishing him with drives to the basket for the most part- I certainly expect Jo to pick up his offense as the games get more important.

If the Bulls can get Game 4, all of a sudden they will have all of the momentum in a best-of-3 series with two of those games at the UC.

As bad as things looked after Game 2, they will look almost that good if the Bulls can tie the series on Sunday.


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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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