Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Playoff Game 2–Vines & Emails From The Abyss | Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Playoff Game 2–Vines & Emails From The Abyss

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Updated: April 22, 2014

Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls - Dec. 29, 2012 - Truth About It.net

‘They’ say that a playoff series does not start until the road team wins. If that is indeed the case, the Washington Wizards got the series started right away, immediately putting the Bulls on notice in the United Center. Led by Nene’s 24 points, and some inspired fourth-quarter play by Andre Miller, the Wizards erased a 13-points Bulls lead to defeat the home team, 102-93.

Coach Tom Thibodeau has had Monday and today to watch film, ponder what went wrong, and determine what needs to be adjusted to prevent his team returning to Washington down two games in the series. Coach Randy Wittman has had a couple days to calm down his young backcourt and prepare them for the onslaught of emotions that the Bulls will surely bring tonight.

During that same span, Adam Rubin and I exchanged emails about what happened in Game 1 and what we might see in Game 2.

Also, ESPNChicago‘s Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) chimes in to discuss the adjustments the Bulls need to make in what D.J. Augustin calls “a must-win” Game 2.


Teams: Wizards vs. Bulls
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Venue: United Center, Chicago, IL
Television: CSN/TNT
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW 99.1 FM
Spread: Bulls favored by 5.5 points.


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Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):

Did we just watch Wittman out-coach Thibodeau in Game 1? It’s not just the gutsy use of Andre Miller in the fourth quarter (Wittman squeezed all he could out of the Professor, then called a well-timed timeout to replace a winded Miller with a rested—and seemingly perturbed—John Wall). It’s also his decision to bring the fight to Joakim Noah and run the offense through Nene (usually 15-20 feet from the rim).

That tactic seemed to neutralize the Bulls’ swarming defense. When Noah crowded Nene so far from the rim, the paint opened for Washington’s cutters and Nene took advantage with his passing skills. When Noah sagged, Nene hit open jumpers. Removing Noah from the paint also gives Gortat a favorable matchup against a smaller defender.

 

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20):

I won’t say Wittman out-coached Thibs in Game 1, because the playoffs are about adjustments. What both men instruct their teams to do in Game 2 will speak volumes about their true coaching chops. But I do think we just felt the true strength and ability of the Nene/Gortat combination. Nene can do everything Noah can do, but he’s stronger and more effective in the paint, which nullifies some of Noah’s powers. And, as you mentioned, Gortat benefited from smaller defenders and still managed to stay engaged offensively—something that was a legitimate concern once Nene returned.

Wittman’s decision to stick with Andre Miller was indeed ballsy, especially when you consider he called his franchise player to come into the game, sat him back down, and then called him back in only when Miller had exhausted every ounce of strength. Hopefully Wall understands that this is a long series and that he’ll have plenty of time to shine.

(TNT analyst Steve Kerr hinted that Miller and Wall should have played together in that fourth quarter, and that Beal should have been benched. Maybe we’ll see that tonight—it would be yet another bold move from Wittman.)

I don’t worry about Wall in Game 2, because he will eventually find his shot, and even if it continues to fail him, he doesn’t seem to have any difficulty getting past the Hinrich/Augustin defensive combo. But Beal has a tendency to sulk when he’s off, and the Bulls’ defense has the ability to continually force him into tough shots, which means his struggles could be series-long. The Wizards—particularly Wall and Miller—will need Beal at some point to hit a corner 3 (or two), and that means he needs to shed the sulking and make “that leap.”

Would you grant Trevor Booker a mulligan and allow him to reprise his role as the first big off the bench, or would you play Drew Gooden or Al Harrington more?

 

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):

Booker was awful. His only saving grace is that the rest of the bench—except for Miller—was awful, too. If Gooden had done anything in his limited minutes I might answer differently, but Booker should get another shot with a very, very short leash. His only goal should be matching Taj and Joakim’s motor on the defensive boards. That’s his bread and butter and I expect a much better showing in Game 2.

How do you think Chicago will adjust to Nene’s big game? Will Thibodeau relax his corner 3 defense and instruct his wings to retreat closer to the paint to cut off Gortat and the rest of the Wizards’ cutters? That would be ideal for Beal, Ariza, and Webster…

 

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20):

I really don’t think Thibodeau will change much on defense, because as well as Nene played, the Bulls were still very much in this game until the two-minute mark. If Beal, Ariza and Webster start getting good looks and get hot, that unleashes John Wall on the Bulls defense, and the Wizards could win by an even larger amount. I think the Bulls will focus on getting the ball inside to Boozer and Noah, and getting Nene (and to a lesser extent Gortat) in foul trouble. Without Nene on the floor, Washington’s interior passing is not as sharp, and they become more a perimeter team playing outside-in. That plays right into the strength of the Bulls defense.

Speaking of defense, the Wizards cannot let Dunleavy or Augustin catch fire. Dunleavy scored 11 points in the third quarter and helped the Bulls extend their lead, and then he went silent and played just three minutes in the last quarter. Augustin will not shoot 3-for-15 again, and he’ll be looking to use his quickness to exploit Andre Miller when he can. The Wizards cannot afford to let him live in the paint and do what Jeff Teague is doing the Pacers.

Who will be the Wizards MVP for Game 2 and, most importantly, who will win?

 

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):

You are probably right about Thibodeau. He will not abandon long-held defensive principles after one loss. Noah will likely be left one-on-one with Nene and I think Noah will be a lot more effective in Game 2. The good news is that Washington does not need a monster game from Nene to win. If Nene can simply command 95 percent of Noah’s attention on the block it will free up Wall and Gortat to pick-and-roll Boozer and Gibson to death.

Now, who will win? It’s extremely rare for a road team to take a 2-0 series lead. That’s because the home team treats Game 2 as a do-or-die while the road team is often content with a split. Washington certainly did not display a killer instinct during the regular season. But I think the Bulls will lose John Wall on multiple possessions as they focus on Washington’s big men. I’m not saying he goes full Juan Dixon, but five 3-pointers is doable. And all it takes is one strong scoring outburst from one of Washington’s wings to match Chicago’s tepid scoring pace. Screw it, I’m picking Washington.

How do you see Game 2 playing out?

 

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20):

I think Nene will come back to Earth a bit in Game 2, but I expect Gortat to have another strong game on the boards, with increased scoring production. Wall and Beal will continue struggle shooting-wise until they return home for Game 3, but Trevor Ariza will catch fire and Drew Gooden will play impactful minutes. Unfortunately, Joakim Noah—spurred by the Defensive Player of the Year award—will figure out a way to channel his frustration (and grieving over his mentor), and he will give a yeoman effort. The Bulls will win, 95-82.


What adjustments do
the Bulls need to make?

by ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell)

 

#1. Do a better job down low.

If Nene and Marcin Gortat continue to have big games … it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Bulls are going to lose this series. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson have to do a better job containing the pair and taking better control of the boards.

#2. Get Augustin going.

D.J. Augustin is the only member of the Bulls who can consistently create his own shot—and create looks for his teammates. Tom Thibodeau has to do a better job getting him into a rhythm. He was just 3-for-15 in Game 1 and the Wizards did a solid job of defending him throughout the night.

#3. Channel Noah’s passion.

Joakim Noah has had an extremely emotional week. He lost his mentor, Tyrone Green, last week and, on Monday, won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He must find a way to play with the fire that has defined him throughout the year. He did not play his usual game on Sunday night—on either end of the floor—and it showed