WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards knew the story line: The resilient, experienced, defensive-minded team with the no-nonsense coach would handle them in the first-round of the playoffs.
"There were probably people who didn't think we had a chance," Wizards coach Randy Wittman admitted Thursday.
He's right. This was the Bulls, a team that forced its will on opponents. They beat you up, make the game ugly and wear you down.
But the folks who thought the Wizards didn't have a chance or believed the story line didn't realize a key factor: Washington is a resilient, defensive-minded team with a no-nonsense coach.
The Wizards might not have the same experience as the Bulls, especially in the backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal playing in their first playoffs, but they do have experience. Trevor Ariza has a championship ring, Nene played in 44 playoff games before this postseason, Marcin Gortat had 46 postseason games on his résumé and Andre Miller 52.
The fifth-seeded Wizards — in the postseason for the first time since 2008 — have a 2-0 series lead against the Bulls after two road victories and are in a great spot to reach the conference semifinals for the first time since 2005.
In the history of NBA seven-game series, just three times has a team lost the opening two games at home and then come back to win the series.
The Wizards aren't interested in history. Right now, they are saying the right things and don't look like a team unaware of what is required to win the playoffs. Getting here wasn't enough. They aren't content with just winning a game or two.
Even though he had never played in a playoff game, Wall said, "We knew what it would take to win Game 1 and Game 2, and it's going to take a lot more to win Game 3."
Wall quickly dismissed talk of sweeping the Bulls. "We haven't done nothing but win two games in a row," Wall said. "We're not thinking that. We're thinking Game 3. You think sweep and lose Game 3, then you're in a bind."
Wittman added, "We haven't done anything. You've got to win four games. … Until you get that, you haven't accomplished anything yet."
Wittman said he wasn't sure how his young, playoff neophytes would react but had a good feeling during practices last week. He had their attention, and Wittman coached all year long with an eye on the playoffs.
When the Wizards reached the postseason, he wanted to make sure they were ready for the increased effort and intensity required to win.
Over the past two seasons, Wittman has reached the team, got them to buy into team defense and ball movement on offense. It doesn't always work the way Wittman wants, but players understand the plan and have executed it more often than not.
"The focus was the thing that stood out for me and has stood out for me. ... I liked what I saw," Wittman said. "All year long as we continue to work ourselves into a position from day one to get into the playoffs, I was stressing to them throughout the season how different the playoffs are to a regular game."
The playoff jitters that maybe got to the young Toronto Raptors — who's lack of experience cost them Game 1 at home against a much more veteran Brooklyn Nets team — didn't get to the Wizards in the same way.
Wall and Beal, like other players in playoff spotlight for the first time, have proven they belong. They didn't have their best shooting efforts in Game 1 but did other things to help Washington win, and in Game 2, they combined for 42 points — 26 from Beal, a 20-year-old shooting guard on verge of turning into an All-Star.
The Wizards are acting like they belong. Even though they have a 2-0 lead with the next two games at home, they're saying they are the desperate team.
"We're going to come out like we're down 0-1 and like our backs are against the wall," Beal said.
Talk doesn't guarantee anything. So far, their actions have said enough.