Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Game 39 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Game 39

Updated: January 14, 2015

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

“Hate” is a strong word. (I’ll spare you the definition—you know what I’m talking about.) But these two teams HATE each other. Forget last year’s playoffs, where the hatred wasn’t yet hatred but a simmering, pungent dislike.

Tempers flared during the preseason when Paul Pierce fouled Jimmy Butler in the open court—clothesline—which led to a scrum and, ultimately, Pierce poking Joakim Noah in the forehead.

“Whatever it was,” Butler said after the game, “I guess that’s what it’s going to come down to every time we play them guys. I guess they just don’t like us.”

If that was ever in doubt (and it wasn’t … or shouldn’t have been, unless you, dear reader, are new to Wizards fandom, which is cool—welcome to Truth About, John Wall put second thoughts to rest:

“That lets you know how it’s going to be for the four times we play them in the regular season. It might get a lot worse than that.”

Two games down. It hasn’t yet gotten worse than that. YET. Noah—with nerves as twisted as his samurai bun—kicked ol’ Roundball Spalding into the stanchion in the last meeting, but that’s been the worst offense. But NBA regulars are still on the edge of their seats, rooting for a good game and some action on the side. Even true professionals like voice of ABC and ESPN Mike Breen.

“Having heated rivalries that occasionally have a minor flare-up is great for the fans and adds to the drama,” Breen said last week. “Paul Pierce and Joakim Noah are two of the best in the game at their positions, but they’re also professional irritants and they know how to get under their opponents’ skins. That’s one thing that makes them so good.”

On to tonight’s action…

The Wizards are on a back-to-back. The Spurs were in town yesterday, celebrating at the White House with Barry O., but were taken down in the Phone Booth, 101-93, their first lost to the Wiz since 2005. “Wow,” recapped TAI boss Kyle Weidie. (Wow is right.)

The Bulls should be well-rested, having had Tuesday off. But not all is well in the Windy City.

“Aside from the impressive win over Houston, 2015 has been dismal thus far for the Bulls. They’ve played far below their talent level and have come nowhere close to the type of committed and engaging play of years past,” writes Bulls blogger Trenton Jocz on Bulls By The Horn.

Jocz’s colleague Brian Schroeder (@Cosmis) stopped by TAI to help preview this highly anticipated, nationally televised game. GET IT ON!

Teams: Wizards at Bulls
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: United Center, Chicago, IL
Television: ESPN/CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Bulls fav’d by 6 points.

Q#1. NBA know-it-all David Thorpe took a shot at the Chicago Bulls in his chain of Tuesday tweets: “I don’t see the same joy and passion from the Bulls like I always used to. It’s spotty. Discuss.”

Go ahead. What do you see?

@Cosmis: I think the answer to that is two-fold. One, Joakim Noah is a shell of himself. He had what was called “minor knee surgery” in the offseason and yet missed several weeks of workouts and, even now, months later, looks hobbled and broken. Pau Gasol might have let it slip that Noah actually had a torn meniscus, which would pretty handily explain everything. Without Noah at 100 percent, the Bulls really seem to have lost their heart. They’re still playing well, but there’s definitely something missing.

On the other hand, the return of Derrick Rose (the fabled thing they’ve been holding out for the last two years) might have instilled a sense of confidence this team had been lacking. Do they really need to kill themselves in January anymore? Making the playoffs is all but guaranteed, and even though they’re currently fourth in the East, it’ll take a lot for them not to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Q#2. After the Wizards win against San Antonio, Paul Pierce was asked about the Bulls. He had positive things to say about Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler. Do the Bulls need more from both to ease the ‘scoring burden’ currently shouldered by Derrick Rose?

Obviously, you can’t expect either player to score 40-plus every night … but is the fix as simple as more touches and shots?

@CosmisI’m not sure the Bulls can reasonably ask for anything more from Pau and Butler. Both are playing 35-plus minutes and carrying the majority of the scoring load. Rose has chipped in where he can, but unless he suddenly gets a lot more interested in taking contact at the rim (which is a game-by-game proposition for him at this point), he’s not going to do much more. Playing with two nominal centers has really hampered their spacing, especially without Mike Dunleavy. The best 3-point shooter on the floor most times is Jimmy Butler, who also has to be the best rim runner, best isolation player and best cutter. This is where Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic have come in such handy, whenever Thibs deigns to give them actual minutes.

Q#3. The Bulls, despite making something of a habit of losing to bad teams at home, have been dominant on the road. They’re 14-5 away from the Madhouse on Madison, their best start on the road since 1996-97.

What’s been Thibodeau’s secret to success?

@CosmisThis is where the confidence I mentioned earlier comes in. It seems as though they’ve been taking bad teams for granted at home, but not on the road. Whatever is left of the desperate, manic energy from last season is being filtered through road games more than it is at home. Statistically, there’s not much basis for it. Their road/home splits are fairly similar, even slightly in favor of the latter. They average more assists, points and rebounds at home, as well as fewer turnovers and a slightly better overall field goal percentage. So, it’s just an effort thing—one that is hopefully rectified before the playoffs, since playing a bad team at home is what the first round in the Eastern Conference is usually all about.



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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.