The Washington Wizards have ended their long five-year playoff drought and take on the Chicago Bulls in the first-round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Both teams are hungry for a series victory, and this four-seed vs. five-seed matchup promises to be an exciting one.
How the Bulls got here:
Despite losing Derrick Rose early in the season and then dealing away Luol Deng in January, Chicago has found ways to continue to win and ended up with a respectable record of 48-34, good for the four-seed in the Eastern Conference. Coach the Year Candidate Tom Thibodeau and MVP Candidate Joakim Noah have played enormous parts in their team’s success. Thibs – known for his defensive mind and discipline – receives the most out of his players day in and day out while Noah has emerged as an NBA star but maybe even more importantly, as the heart and soul of this Bulls team.
How the Wizards got here:
John Wall is finally turning out to be the star the Wizards expected him to be when the team selected him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Through 82 games this season, the 23-year-old posted career-highs of 19.3 points, 8.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. His impressive play, along with Bradley Beal‘s offensive skillset and Marcin Gortat‘s presence down low have turned the Wizards into a legitimate playoff squad.
Player to watch on the Bulls:
Mike Dunleavy Jr. He won’t impress with flash or glamour, but the 33-year-old has been hot lately and if he can continue on this current pace, it will certainly bode well for the Bulls. In the month of April, Dunleavy averaged 13 points on 50.7 percent shooting from the field and 46.9 percent from beyond the arc in eight games. Chicago is 12-4 when the shooter knocks down at least three three-pointers.
Player to watch on the Wizards:
Nene. The lone loss the Wizards have suffered to the Bulls this season was when Nene was out of the lineup. Since the big man returned on April 9 after suffering a sprained right MCL, he’s averaged 15.7 points in just 22.2 minutes per night while shooting 69 percent from the field.
Why the Bulls will win:
Despite owning the league’s worst effective field-goal percentage at 47.1 percent, the Bulls are favorites heading into this game because of their hard-nosed defense. They’re the only team that allowed less than one point per possession in every quarter and can certainly slow down the Wizards’ three-point attack.
Why the Wizards will win:
Washington’s desire to get out in transition and spread the ball around clearly disrupted the Bulls’ defense throughout the season. In the three games they played, D.J. Augustin (11-of-22) and Kirk Hinrich (5-of-10) each shot 50 percent from three-point range. On top of their shooting, John Wall led the league with 247 assists on three-pointers – 51 more than any other player. 109 of those went to Trevor Ariza, who led the league with 81 corner threes.
Prediction: Bulls in six.
Wizards won 2-1 (1-1 at Washington)
CHI OffRtg: 102.3 (15th vs. WAS)
WAS OffRtg: 100.6 (8th vs. CHI)
(4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Game 1 – Sun. April 20, Washington at Chicago, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 2 – Tue. April 22, Washington at Chicago, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Fri. April 25, Chicago at Washington, 8 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 – Sun. April 27, Chicago at Washington, 1 p.m., ABC
Game 5 * Tue. April 29, Washington at Chicago, TBD, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 1, Chicago at Washington, TBD, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 3, Washington at Chicago, TBD, TNT
(Advanced Stats via John Schuhmann of NBA.com)