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NBA Playoff Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards

Apr 18, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT

source: Getty Images
SEASON RECORDS

Chicago Bulls: 48-34

Washington Wizards: 44-38

KEY INJURIES

Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose (still out for the season)

Washington Wizards: none

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Chicago Bulls:  Offense 99.7 (28th in NBA), Defense 97.8 (2nd in NBA)

Washington Wizards: Offense 103.3 (18th in NBA), Defense 102.4 (10th in NBA)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1) Will Randy Wittman bridge the coaching gap with Tom Thibodeau?

Thibodeau won Coach of the Year his first season with the Bulls, led them to a better record the following year and then guiding them back to the playoffs both years since without their top player. He’s solidly in the mix for Coach of the Year again this season.

Randy Wittman, on the other hand, has the worst career record of all time (minimum: 400 games) and has never made the playoffs before.

Wittman needn’t out-scheme Thibodeau, but the Wizards coach can’t come across as relatively clueless if his team is to win. Making adjustments through a playoff series is a difficult job, and it’s oh so important when teams are relatively evenly matched.

Thibodeau has the advantage in coaching experience and probably acumen, too. Wittman needs to at least hold his own.

2) Will the Wizards avoid long 2s?

Thibodeau’s teams excel at running opponents off the 3-point arc, and this season is no exception. The Bulls force 49.5 percent of their opponents shots from 16+ feet to come inside the arc – most in the league.

The Wizards, especially John Wall and Bradley Beal, will gladly shoot those inefficient long 2s by design. That’s foolish, but what can they do now?

The best way for Washington to combat this trend – assuming an offensive overhaul isn’t feasible – is to get out in transition. The Wizards force plenty of turnovers, and the Bulls don’t excel at taking care of the ball. Get John Wall in the open court, and suddenly, Washington’s offense looks a lot better.

3) How much can Nene play?

Nene is a solidifying force on both ends for the Wizards. Not only is he a productive player, he fits his role around his teammates nearly perfectly.

But he averages just 29.4 minutes per game.

On the other hand, the Bulls’ do-everything player – Joakim Noah – averages 35.3 minutes per game. That’s why he’s an MVP ballot candidate. (Not that playing more would get Nene there, but assuming a large role boosts Noah’s case).

Nene has played more than 35 minutes just 15 times since the Wizards traded for him during the 2011-12 season. He’s frequently injured or at least hobbled, and the Bulls’ physicality will do him no favors.

The more available Nene is, the better Washington’s chances of winning. It’s a big question mark – unlike with Noah, whom the Bulls can depend on for big minutes.

PREDICTION

Does it seem like all the keys are geared toward the Washington? That’s because they are. Chicago is in the driver’s seat, and it’s up to the Wizards to change that. It will take more than idly watching the Bulls’ anemic offense cost them a game or two.

Bulls in 6

  1. lj312chicago - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Bulls in 5

    • spthegr8 - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      I agree. Bulls in 5. The Wiz are a solid team but the Bulls D is gonna give them serious problems!!

  2. emdawt - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Wizards in 6 (If Nene is healthy)

    • chicagosports2014 - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      @emdawt! NO EXCUSES, we made it without Luol n Derrick.

      • aboogy123456 - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        He’s not making excuses. If nene is healthy, the wizards are a better team. He’s just making a prediction that isn’t crazy at all.

      • chicagosports2014 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        Oh yeah, he hedging his bed. @aboogy12345!

    • adamsjohn714 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      The wizards have absolutely no shot. They’re the happy to be here team.

      • ranfan12 - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:54 AM

        They have the element of surprise

      • adamsjohn714 - Apr 19, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        They played 82 games with a fairly similar roster to the one they have now. In fact, I think most of those games were filmed in some capacity. With a little luck, the Bulls coaching staff probably can get their hands on at least some of that game tape. In Remember the Titans, there was a line about high school football coaches exchanging game film. I’m willing to bet there’s a practice like that in the NBA. In case you can’t tell, my post is dripping with sarcasm….

  3. alshonsmeathooks - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    daaaaaaaaaa bulls

  4. mcjon22 - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Bulls in 6

    They’ll also take care of the Pacers in 6

    • 12444uggg - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      Wiz in 7.

      • lj312chicago - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        The Wizards are going to learn one huge, valuable lesson in the next week…….you can’t just flip a switch and start playing defense and you can’t win in the playoffs without defense…..Charlotte has a better chance of knocking off Miami then the Wizards do of knocking off the Bulls…

        P.S. All this if Nene is healthy talk …the Wizards can beat the Bulls…..is laughable….

      • obmig - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:08 PM

        Wizards played d all year. What’s this “flip a switch” talk all about?

      • unxpexted1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        yea you obviously don’t watch the Wizards. Their problem is scoring efficiently in the halfcourt. They actually play pretty darn good defense with good wing and frontline defenders. The question is going to be halfcourt offense, and bench.

      • 12444uggg - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        I’ll concede that I’m no major follower of either squad, but the Bulls have a crap offense, and have not had to deal with a good D going playoff/half court on them.
        I think this series is about the Bulls offense as much as anything. I’m sticking with my pick.

  5. lakerade - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    Bulls in 5.

  6. irvness21 - Apr 18, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Nene is a great player but the key here is the Wizards adjusted there game around Gortat and having Nene back is an added boost. If the Wizkids can force the turnovers (shouldn’t be too hard the Bulls give it away a lot) and get in transition they can beat the Bulls. What i haven’t seen which i thought someone would have pointed out by now is once Noah gets in foul trouble the Bulls are horrible. Gibson is a good back up plan but he cant hold that intensity for 25 mins a night in a 7 game series. The longer the series goes the better the chances for the Wizards. I say Wiz in 7!!!

    • calkinsrob - Apr 18, 2014 at 3:44 PM

      all valid points. Itll be a good series. I disagree on 25 min of taj though. we shall see. I say bulls in 6

    • chicitybulls - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      The Bulls were just about middle of the pack on turnovers (13th most to be. The Wizards were 16th by the way). I’d call that a wash so I’m not sure that gives the Wizards this big advantage that will win them the series. The fact that the Bulls play much better defense, I would say that that also off sets that turnover difference. Once Noah gets in foul trouble? Noah hasn’t been in foul trouble. He averages a little over 3 fouls per game so not really sure where you’re getting that from. And you must not have seen Gibson when he’s started games this year. He’s played much more effectively. That’s why the Bulls are ok with amnestying Boozer this summer.

  7. unxpexted1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    I think it will be bulls in 7. People underestimate how good the Wizards are at home

  8. lj312chicago - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    Some idiot on here wrote taj can ball for 25 mins a night/…. Are you stupid? Do you watch basketball?

    • sire2334 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:18 PM

      Do you? You scoff at the Wiz beating the Bulls like it last years Wiz playing Jordan’s Bulls. This is a different team and if I were you I’d be hoping like hell that I wasn’t the one learning the valuable lesson of sleeping on an opponent.

  9. Eutaw's Finest - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    Why is it ignored that the wiz took 2 of 3 from the Bulls this year and the only game the Bulls won was without NeNe? Granted it was a blowout but nevertheless the Woz were without a key player to their success this season.

  10. sire2334 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    All of this Bulls win easy talk is just blind homerism/elitism or just those who haven’t seen a Wizards game throwing sh%t up against a wall.

    I’m a Wizards fan and I agree with Bulls in 6. But it has nothing to do with the Bulls. The Wizards have a but of a better roster but they will be out coached. They have underachieved all year. Imagine this team with a coach like Pop. Hell imagine the team with Thibs.

    • chicitybulls - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      I dont think it will be an easy win for the Bulls at all. I think the Wizards have a very good pg rotation in Wall and Miller and very good bigs in Gortat, Nene and Booker. I’m not really concerned about Beal. I’ll take Jimmy guarding him every day of the week. I think it’ll be a good series but I think the Bulls will win it ultimately. I dont think it will go 7 (5 maybe 6) but I wouldn’t be too surprised if it did go 7. Ultimately neither fan base should get too uptight about this series. neither team is a championship contender so it’s all of this hoopla for nothing.

      • sire2334 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        I sort of agree…Only because both the Heat and the Pacers have weakness that I think the Wiz,Raps,Nets and Bulls can expose. These teams are hungry and looking to make noise. Whoever wins can certainly get to the conf. finals.

    • goodtogo28 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:21 PM

      i agree with sire. randy wittman has done a good job with the young players but he’s not the coach to put the wizards on top. btw, quit dreaming with pop and thib at least name a more realistic option for the future. i think george karl would be a good choice for this team.

      • sire2334 - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Im not dreaming as much as making a point. Clearly I know there’s no chance they would come to DC.

  11. tomtravis76 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Wizards in 6 then swept by the Pacers. It’s going to be another NBA finals in Miami, only question will KD show up this year? The playoffs are going to be great, but basketball fans deep down will enjoy the KD v LeBron finals again.

  12. lj312chicago - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    Raptors will only be dangerous if Jonas shows up and they figure out who to run at the 3 against the nets…Miami…Indy…they don’t have a legit 3…maybe run salmons more…

  13. uscoach - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    We all know the Bulls bring it in the playoffs, but we don’t know about the Wiz because we haven’t seen them. I’m weary of the coaching thing too…but maybe the Wizards are a lock-down playoff team and we don’t know it yet?!

  14. 1harrypairatesties - Apr 19, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    Daaaa Bulls ! Noah … Noah … pizza … Noah …

  15. jimathai - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    funny reading these comments now.

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