Nene dominated with 24 points, Trevor Ariza scored 18, and the Washington Wizards rallied from 13 down to beat the Bulls 102-93 in their playoff opener on Sunday night at United Center.
John Wall scored 16 in his postseason debut. Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and the fifth-seeded Wizards pulled out the victory even though they looked like they were ready to be blown out.
They cut a 13-point deficit to one in the third and trailed by three going into the fourth, before outscoring Chicago 18-6 over the final six minutes to come out on top in their first playoff appearance since 2008.
Game 2 is Tuesday.
Gortat's layup started the decisive run, and Trevor Ariza gave the Wizards an 88-87 lead when he hit a pair of free throws with 4:17 remaining. Jimmy Butler tied it for Chicago with one of his own, but a layup by Gortat and basket by Nene made it 92-88, and Washington hung on after Chicago's Joakim Noah cut it to two on a tip-in with 2:11 left.
Gortat hit two free throws and added a jumper with 34 seconds left to make it a six-point game, and the Wizards took the early lead in the best-of-seven series.
Nene dominated from the start and hit 11 of 17 shots. Andre Miller came on strong down the stretch to finish with 10 points, and the Wizards pulled this one out even though Wall and Bradley Beal (13 points) combined to shoot just 7 of 25.
Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin each scored 16 points, and Butler had 15. Taj Gibson added 12 points, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer each scored 11, and Noah added 10 points and 10 assists. But after posting more wins since Jan. 1 than any other Eastern Conference team, the Bulls find themselves in a hole.
They led by 13 early in the third and were up 69-57 midway through the quarter when the Wizards went on a 13-2 run to make it a one-point game.
Ariza's 3-pointer cut it to 71-70 with 3:32 remaining. Noah answered with a layup and Gibson hit two free throws to make it a five-point game, but a basket by Miller made it a three-point game going into the fourth.
The Bulls overcame a 14-point first half by Nene and took a 54-48 lead to the locker room after a strong second quarter.
Augustin drove for a three-point play with just over a minute left to finish the first-half scoring and start a 13-3 run that stretched into the third quarter.
Gibson blocked a driving Wall with about 24 seconds left in the half, and the Bulls continued to pour it on after the break.
Dunleavy, who missed all five shots in the first two quarters, heated up in a big way in the third. He started the quarter with a 3-pointer and kept it going after Ariza hit one of his own.
Butler answered with a layup and a 3, and Hinrich capped the run with a driving reverse layup to make it 64-51 with 9:50 left in the third.