Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 42nd game of the season at home against the Chicago Bulls are TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and guest Matt McHale (@bullsbythehorns), who writes about the Bulls for the ESPN TrueHoop blog Bulls by the Horns.
Wizards Starters (10-31):
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Bulls Starters (26-16):
Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton, Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Bulls over the past week?)
@bullsbythehorns: Nobody is really talking about the Bulls—probably because they aren’t considered a true threat while Derrick Rose is still rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee—but they’ve quietly won six of their last seven games, including wins over the Warriors, Hawks, Raptors, Celtics, Lakers, and Pistons. Their lone defeat in that stretch was an overtime loss to the Grizzlies, which was notable because Joakim Noah said something he shouldn’t have to coach Tom Thibodeau and ended up getting benched for the whole fourth quarter and overtime. And that may have cost the Bulls the game.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@bullsbythehorns: I doubt the name “Nate Robinson” strikes fear into many hearts. He’s, like, four feet tall and playing for on a minimum salary contract. And yet he’s shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, he’s second on the Bulls in Effective Field Goal Percentage (.492) and third in True Shooting Percentage (.527). What’s more, he’s tied with Joakim Noah for second on the team in Player Efficiency Rating (16.9) and tied with Carlos Boozer for second on the team in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (.142). He’s actually having a terrific season. The team also relies heavily on his energy when they’re dragging, and they likely will be on Saturday after playing the Warriors on last night.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@bullsbythehorns: Frankly, opposing guards have been eating the Bulls alive lately. And according to 82games.com, opposing point guards average about 20 points and eight assists against Chicago, and that’s where the biggest discrepancy in PER is. So I’m particularly concerned about how the Bulls do against John Wall and Jordan Crawford, especially on high screen-and-rolls.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@rashad20: Richard Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich (both former Wizards) are both crafty veterans who may not be in their prime, but they still possess enough tricks in their back pocket to present challenges to John Wall and Bradley Beal. Hamilton will attempt to run Beal off as many screens as it takes for him to get open. Hinrich is coming off a 25-point night against the Warriors, where he shot 6-of-7 from the 3-point line, so Wall must keep a close watch on him at all times. But more importantly, the Wizards front line of Nene, Okafor and Kevin Seraphin must match the intensity and physicality of Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and, to a much lesser extent, Nazr Mohammed. Okafor has been inconsistent on the offensive end of the floor, but he’s been a consistent presence on the boards in the last five games, averaging 12.5 rebounds per. But Kevin Seraphin and Nene—especially Nene, who has become quite the whiner of late—need to win that battle on both ends of the floor while staying out of foul trouble. It is a tall order (pun intended), but Nene and Okafor have ten and eight years of NBA experience respectively, so what good are they if they can’t win battles against Noah, Gibson and Boozer?
@bullsbythehorns: It’ll be the second night of back-to-back games for both teams, and the Wizards will be at home. That said, the Bulls are an Eastern Conference-best 12-5 on the road and really seem to play their best ball outside of Chicago. Their focus is totally different. I’m guessing it’ll be a low scoring game, something like 87-82, Bulls.
DERRICK ROSE UPDATE
Per ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell), Derrick Rose has taken his next step towards returning from a torn ACL. But no specific return date has been identified as of yet. Without Rose, the Bulls are 26-19, good for third best in the East—just three games behind the Miami Heat.