NBA: How good are Washington Wizards? 'Sky is the limit'

2:15 a.m. EDT April 21, 2014  CHICAGO - Nasos Jonakas likes to keep it simple. His assessment of the Chicago Bulls' 102-93 Game 1 loss to the Washington Wizards is the quintessential example of that.

"Up 13, we exhaled and they came back," Noah said. "Bad turnovers. They got some easy scores. We got to make our adjustments. This is chess. It isn't checkers."

The Wizards made the first move on the checkerboard and took control of a series that seemed to be written out of their favor.

If Sunday night's script was read beforehand, the roles would have seemed reversed between two gritty, hard-nosed squads. One team squandered a double-digit lead, and the other played with poise and assertiveness in the game's waning minutes.

In one game, Washington shredded its underdog label against a team with major playoff moxie and denounced much of the playoff inexperience talk. Instead of a sweep, the story line has now switched over to this team's postseason ceiling.

Which brings up the obvious question: Just how good are the Wizards?

"The sky is the limit, if we play the right way" said veteran Wizards big man Nene, who finished with 24 points and eight rebounds.

The last part of the equation is crucial. Playing the right way has been a maturation process spearheaded by an assembled cast of veterans around two young stars.

"We just want to come in and play Washington Wizards basketball," said point guard John Wall, the team's lone All-Star. "I think a lot of guys are mature on this team. We're not really getting rattled out there, we're just sticking to our team concepts, not trying to do it 1-on-1. We would have done that earlier in the season."

While Wall and backcourt partner Bradley Beal made their playoff debuts, Nene and fellow veterans Trevor Ariza and Andre Miller gave Washington a lift in the fourth quarter. Ariza had three of the Wizards' four three-pointers to finish with 18 points, while Miller chipped in 10 points, all in the final 14 minutes.

"You have to stay in the moment," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "There will be times in the playoffs where we have to survive and stay in the game with six or seven straight possessions and not score. Both teams can do that. Who is going to stay in the fight when you do that? We did. We had a period where they outplayed us, no question about it. We had to get that back, and in the second half, I thought we did."

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