Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Playoff Game 5–Emails from the Abyss | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Playoff Game 5–Emails from the Abyss

Updated: April 29, 2014

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



Note-a-Bull stats, Jack:

  • In franchise history, the Bulls are 2-6 (.250) in Game 5s when trailing a series 3-1—the two wins came in 2007 at Detroit and in 2012 vs. Philadelphia.
  • In franchise history, Chicago is 22-20 (.524) in Game 5s and 15-4 (.789) in Game 5s played at home.

Also, the folks at TeamRankings give the Wizards—your Wizards—an 85 percent shot to advance to the second round. Still, Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau thinks he has a “resilient group” and believes his team will find a way to pull out the series. Will they? Can they?

Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) and I (@JohnCTownsend) exchanged emails to get you primed for Game 5. Read on to get yo’ body, heart and mind right!

Teams: Wizards vs. Bulls
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: United Center, Chicago, IL
Television: CSN/TNT
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/ESPN 1000 AM
Spread: Bulls favored by 4 points.

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April 28, 8:53 a.m.

Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20):

In this article about Nene, Kyle hinted that the Wizards may actually be better served with Nene playing fewer minutes in the first and third quarters, in an effort to help him stay fresh and out of foul trouble late in game. Kyle also mentioned that this would allow Nene (and Gortat) to be paired more with Trevor Booker, which has benefited the Wizards. Would you make that move?

April 28, 1:55 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

Having Nene back in the rotation, whether he starts (he will) or comes off the bench, is exactly what the Wizards need to make minced meat of the Bulls in Game 5. Marcin Gortat (always a great quote) said as much in the winning locker room after the game:

“I’ll tell you how it’s gonna work: [Nene’s] gonna come back in two days, he’s gonna drop 30, we’re gonna win the game. Everybody is gonna carry him on their shoulders. That’s how it is. That’s what kind of business we are.”

He may not score 30, but he’ll get his. Nene’s averaging 17 points per game this postseason, which is better than every Bulls player … besides Taj Gibson (19.8). That f—— guy, man. Every time the Bulls have fallen and can’t seem to get up, he checks into the game, grabs an offensive rebound (4.8 per game), and makes a play. Call him Life Alert Gibson.

Maybe a rested Nene can slow him down in Game 5. Maybe the Wizards don’t have to slow him down, provided they shut down everybody else. If you were in Wittman’s seat, what’d be your game plan to beat the Bulls?

April 28, 8:51 p.m.

Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20):

First, I would get the ball to Nene early and often, but not simply because he’ll be looking for (controlled) revenge against Jimmy “Black Cowboy” Butler and the rest of the Bulls. Beal and Wall—as well as they have played for the majority of this series—are still young players who have never played in a closeout game. They could be overly excited and loose, or they could be tight and play tentative basketball. Nene (like Ariza) is a veteran, calming influence (it is highly unlikely that he’ll lose his cool again), who can get the Wizards easy baskets early. If he can get Noah and Boozer in foul trouble, too, that’s even better.

Second, and this is one is much more difficult to do, Wittman has to convince his players that their 14-0 lead in Game 4, along with their relatively comfortable margin the entire game, was due to their smothering defense on everyone not named Taj Gibson. After Game 3, John Wall said he could tell during shoot around that his team did not have the right mentality to play. Conversely, after Game 4 Coach Wittman observed that he knew from the opening tip that his team was locked in. It is Wittman’s job to be sure his team his locked in and ready to match—if not quell—the inevitable Bulls’ intensity.

Lastly, he should ask Trevor Booker to make it his business to shut down Gibson. Gibson and Augustin change the pace of the game and usually can close any deficit the Chicago starters allow. Augustin seems to have cooled a bit since he had 25 points and seven assists in Game 2, but Gibson is coming off a 32-point performance, and even when he isn’t scoring, he still give the Bulls  rebounding (6.8 per game) and blocked shots (2.3 per game) in his 32 minutes a game.  Cook Book has the ability to slow him. If I’m Wittman, I’m subbing in Booker every time Gibson comes in, and he can rest when Gibson comes out—maybe even get in his head a bit. But if Gilbson scores 25 to 30 points at home, and allows that home crowd to work themselves into a frenzy, we’ll be writing Opening Statements for Game 6 in D.C.

What adjustments should Tom Thibodeau make?

April 28, 9:46 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

The Wizards don’t want to play a sixth game. They need to take care of business in Game 5 and rest up for another slugfest, against the Pacers or Hawks (whichever is left standing after seven games, which seems likely at this point).

If I were Thibs, I’d … try anything different. Trotting the same seven-man rotation against the Wizards isn’t gonna get the job done. Boozer looks Space Jam’d and never plays in the fourth quarter. Eighth-man Tony Snell can’t buy a bucket (not dissimilar to the rest of the Bulls roster). Nazr Mohammed is too old.

Free Jimmer?

April 28, 10:21 p.m.

Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20):

Thibodeau just doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who will make changes in Game 5, and quite honestly, he doesn’t have to look that far to make change. Thibodeau could convince Carlos Boozer to step aside like Jermaine O’Neal and allow Gibson to start along with D.J. Augustin. John Wall would have to play on the both ends of the floor, and Gibson would have a field day with either Nene or Gortat checking him. To loosely quote Mad Men‘s Don Draper, Thibodeau needs to change the conversation if he doesn’t like what the Wizards are saying and doing. But like you said, he has nothing to lose at this point, and Thibodeau is old-school all the way.

Ultimately, I don’t see the Bulls pulling this out because the Wizards simply have too much firepower. Nene, Beal, and Ariza have led them in three victories, and John Wall has been creating for his teammates (he’s fourth in the NBA playoffs in points created off assists per game) but he’s yet to put together two halves of consistent scoring offense. Wouldn’t it be fitting if the franchise player caught fire in the closeout game, and led them to the second round?  I think the Wizards will win, 95-90, with Wall and Nene leading the offensive charge.

April 28, 10:43 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

Gibson clearly needs a bigger role. He’s still coming off the bench, for no good reason (Boozer’s an amnesty candidate), and averaging just shy of 12 shot attempts per game. LaMarcus Aldridge, perhaps the postseason MVP through the first two weeks, is averaging more than twice that. Thibs could and should feed Gibson as if he were a competitive eater … but why do I feel that he won’t? Honestly, even if he does, it won’t be enough. The Bulls can’t win this series. Everybody, even Joakim Noah, knows it.

This series would be more entertaining if the Bulls had Rose.

Or Melo.

Or a 51-year-old Michael Jordan.

The Wiz will score more than 95.

Has #PlayoffWitt stolen your heart? Think he’s stolen Ted’s? Does he get an early contact extension this summer, or do the Wiz shop around?

April 29, 8:48 a.m.

Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20):

I must admit Coach Wittman’s poise and strategery (if I can borrow a phrase from President Bush) have been pleasant surprise. Who knew that Wittman—in his first-ever playoff series as a coach—would be upstaging the master of defense (Coach Thibodeau) AND the coach whose team had the best record in the East for the majority of the season (Frank Vogel) in the first round of the NBA playoffs? Now we know (as I switch from Bush-speak to Hubie Brown) that Ted Leonsis is in a firing mood as evidenced by the dismissal of the Washington Capitals’ coach and GM, but I think both Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld have bought themselves at least another season with the Wizards—if they win the series. If the Bulls come back and win, I don’t know if Ted will necessarily let both of them go, but he definitely might considering courting the Van Gundys, George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Nate McMillan, etc.

April 28, 12:19 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

While I’ll never be the president of Randy Wittman’s fan club, that’s for sure, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they brought Witt back for another season… But the same can’t be said for the team president.

During Emperor Grunfeld’s decade-long reign in D.C., his Wizards teams have made a few cameos on the postseason but also compiled the third-worst winning percentage in the NBA. “What’s remarkable to consider,” local Wiz writer Kevin Broom pointed out in March, “is that 22 other NBA franchises were better than the Wizards teams Grunfeld assembled … and replaced their GM.”

Sure, he brought John Wall, Brad Beal and role player extraordinaire Trevor Booker to D.C., but your neighborhood Papa John’s delivery driver could have done the same for a $3 tip. Grunfeld isn’t the only architect in town, and now that the Wiz finally have some quality pieces to build around, it’s time to move on. If only to usher in a new era of management to match a new era of ownership.

Bill Simmons sums it up on Grantland:

Since they lost Game 5 of the 1979 Finals to Seattle (R.I.P.), here’s your Washington basketball history in fewer than 90 words without mentioning that (a) they missed the playoffs 22 times in 35 years, and (b) they won only two playoff series total: Kwame over Pau; C-Webb for Mitch; Sheed for Strickland; Rip for Stackhouse; Gilbert vs. Jarvaris; $100 million for Juwan; the Rubio/Curry pick for Miller and Foye; Kenny Green one pick over Karl Malone; Wes Unseld, then Ernie Grunfeld; MJ ruining LaBradford Smith; past-their-primes Bernard, Moses and MJ; Andray Blatche’s extension/amnesty; top-12 picks on Hot Plate Williams, Muggsy Bogues, Tom Hammonds and Jared Jeffries; top-six picks on Vesely, Porter, Cal Cheaney and Mel Turpin; Gheorghe Muresan AND Manute Bol; and again, Kenny Green ONE PICK BEFORE KARL MALONE.

*takes deep breath*

*makes coffee*

Beat the Bulls! Bring on the Hawks!



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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.