2) Washington has beaten the Chicago Bulls two of the three times the teams met in the regular season. Why have the Wizards had success against Chicago and will that carry over to the postseason?
The Wizards’ two wins against Chicago came with Nene in the lineup. The Wizards were able to win by shooting over 50% from the field in both games. Both Chicago and Washington are top-10 defenses in the NBA, but while the Wizards are not a great offensive team, 16th in scoring, they are miles ahead of the Bulls who rank last in that department. Defense carries over to the playoffs, so the games will be low scoring. Washington’s hot shooting may not carry over, but my guess is, if they can get to 90 points first, they will probably win the game.
The Bulls actually present a favorable matchup for the Wizards. The Bulls lack of offensive firepower and inability to stretch out the defense is favorable to how the Wizards defend. Also, while the Bulls play stellar defense, Washington’s offense is streak, one that can go through two to three offensive flurries a game regardless of the opponent. Fortunately against a team like Chicago which doesn’t score very much, that’s been enough to lead to success against them.
Washington has beat Chicago mainly because of the play of John Wall. The Bulls defense is elite and their discipline to stay on shooters and not give Wall a lot of space should theoretically give them an advantage. However, Wall has dominated Kirk Hinrich from a pure one-on-one matchup standpoint, and while the Bulls defense is not dependent on one player, this bodes well for a series. If Wall can continually beat his man off the dribble and find a path to the rim, good things will happen, and good things have happened in 2 of the 3 games. Another important thing for Wall will be patience on pick and rolls, as the Bulls will give him open jumpers all day. It is Wall’s job to be more selective in his shots and wait for open shots to develop, as our old friend Umair describes wonderfully. Another reason the Wizards have done well against Chicago is the presence of Nene. One of the reasons the Bulls are such a great defensive team is their absurd defensive rebounding. While Nene’s individual rebounding numbers often have people scoffing at his ability to grab boards, Nene is fantastic at boxing out, and continually gets his body in the way of Noah (and Boozer for that matter). Nene’s individual defense is also a big asset, as he is more than capable of staying in front of Noah, and is excellent at denying the ball.
As dominant as Chicago has been on the defensive side of the ball, the one area of weakness that can be exploited is attacking their back court, Kirk Hinrich is a stout defender but lacks elite athleticism, D.J. Augustin struggles with his undersized frame and Tony Snell has still yet to sniff the postseason in this his rookie season. Given that Washington’s best players roam the perimeter, it will be imperative that they continue the strong play that led to 2 of the 3 wins this year. John Wall sputtered to an inconsistent finish in his first season playing all 82 games and clearly seemed fatigued by the immense burden he carried for 4 months. A few days off before Game 1 should do wonders for his recovery. Look for him to attack Hinrich and Augustin early and often and set up his snipers with open looks all around the 3-point line.
With the Wizards winning 2 out of 3 against Chicago thus far, I see the Wizards continuing to have success against them. The lone loss came the night after an emotional win against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden when the Wizards were without Nene, who has the strength to dominate the Bulls front line. Couple that with Beal’s recent hot shooting performances, and I think this team will surprise some people.