Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Game 36 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Bulls, Game 36

Updated: January 11, 2016

Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls - Truth About

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

Roughly 630 days ago, on Sunday, April 20, 2014
, the Washington Wizards shocked the Chicago Bulls, and the entire NBA, by winning Game 1 of a first round playoff matchup at the United Center, 102-93. The margin was three points in favor of the Wizards to start the fourth quarter and even as close as two points, 92-90 Washington, with two minutes left, but the outcome never really seemed in question. Washington dominated the series, winning four games to one, and did so without a ton from John Wall in his first career playoff series.

Wall shot an eFG% of 38.3 over five games against the Bulls, essentially the worst of any Wizard who saw significant minutes aside from Drew Gooden, while the offensive efforts of Trevor Ariza (.605 eFG%), Martell Webster (.568), Nene (.548), and Bradley Beal (.507) carried the load. On the defensive end, the brute forces of Nene, Ariza, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Booker, and Wall, withstood any bucket-stopping prowess from Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson and not even Carlos Boozer one bit.

Today, these two teams sit in chairs of deceptively sharp contrast. Sure, Chicago, with a record of 22-13, resides as the second-best team in the East. But it’s been an angst-filled season for the Bulls—between determining team alpha dog balance between the rising Jimmy Butler and the fading Derrick Rose; dealing with aging capabilities of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, and Taj Gibson; and coping with a brand new coach, Fred Hoiberg, trying to establish his authority in the locker room, all under a cloud of adjusting to a new NBA that accents faster play and more efficient offense.

The Washington Wizards seem a little more solidified in their future direction—only Wall, Beal, Gortat, Otto Porter, and Kelly Oubre are locked into the salary cap going forward, and so the team has plenty of cap space to build upon that core. But this was the season the Wizards were supposed to continue to take that next step, particularly so that they can attract a talent—Kevin Durant, for instance; you might’ve heard of him—with the same cap space that almost every team will have. Instead, the Wizards are 16-19, 12th in the East, and per numberFire, have just a 15.9 percent chance of making the playoffs (though those numbers are more reflective than predictive). They are primarily dealing with injury issues, consistency problems, and what could be a lame-duck coaching situation, as Randy Wittman has yet to prove that he has the strategic and personality management chops to move progress forward.

Washington and Chicago have only played four times since that 2014 playoff series, splitting last season’s series 2-2 with each team winning on the other’s home court. Plus, we must mention the 2014-15 preseason contest between Washington and Chicago in which some folks were ejected for various reasons and, most importantly, Paul Pierce blessed Joakim Noah with a finger to the dome. The Bulls took the third seed and got back the Milwaukee Bucks, 4-2, in last spring’s playoffs but then fell to the second-seed Cleveland Cavaliers, 2-4, in the second round. The Wizards swept to Raptors in the first round, but were also knocked out in the second round, 2-4, at the hands of top-seeded Atlanta.

The Wizards return to Chicago this evening to face the Bulls, who lost to the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday, but who won six in a row before that from the end of 2015 into 2016. Washington, winners on Saturday in Orlando, are meanwhile looking to win consecutive games for just the fourth time this season. They won two games to start the schedule, three games in a row in mid-November, and four games in a row in mid-December. The Wizards will likely be without Marcin Gortat (swollen knee), will definitely be without Bradley Beal and Alan Anderson, could be without DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries, and will probably be without Nene (even though he’ll apparently “try” to play; UPDATE: Nene will play on a “tight” minutes restriction, per The Post’s Jorge Castillo). Mike Dunleavy is slated to be out for a while longer due to back surgery, and Noah is questionable for this evening’s game with a shoulder injury (he’s missed nine games in a row so probably won’t play; UPDATE: Noah WILL make his return to the court tonight versus the Wizards).

It could be anyone’s game, or as Jared Dudley put it after Washington lost to Toronto for the third time last Friday, “There’s not a team we can’t beat, there’s not a team we can’t lose to.” The Wizards are truly a mixed bag, injuries or not.

What do these Bulls do well? Well, they are the best defensive rebounding team in the NBA (48.9 per game) and best overall rebounding team, aided by a sixth-most 11.4 offensive rebounds per game. The Wizards, meanwhile, are ranked dead last in overall rebounding; 27th in defensive rebounding (31.5) and 30th in offensive rebounding (8.7 per game). Something’s gotta give: whether it be the Bulls punting offensive rebounds to combat Washington’s fifth-ranked NBA pace and third-ranked fastbreak points scoring (Chicago ranks 8th in pace and 26th in fastbreak points), or whether it be a more conscious effort on the part of the Wizards to secure the possession instead of jumping into the cart before it’s connected to the horse.

Also worth observing: Chicago shoots 36.5 percent from 3-point land this season, fifth-best in the league … and you know the Wizards have had difficulty in guarding the 3-point line. But, the Bulls attempt just 21.4 3-pointers per game, ranked just 23rd-most. Like the Wizards of literally yesteryear, the Bulls are seemingly not taking advantage of a strength by shooting more 3s. Doug McDermott (.429), E’Twaun Moore (.429), Tony Snell (.409), Aaron Brooks (.403), and even Kirk Hinrich (.462) are all topping the 40 percent mark this season. Nikola Mirotic (5.1) and Jimmy Butler (3.5) lead the Bulls in 3-point attempts per game and are shooting 35.6 and 33.1 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, four healthy Wizards shoot above 40 percent: Dudley (.463), newcomer Jarell Eddie (.421), Gary Neal (.416), and rookie Kelly Oubre (.409). Beal, when healthy, has shot 38.9 percent from deep (5.6 attempts per game), and John Wall is second on the Wizards in 3-point attempts (4.3), but is averaging 34.9 percent on 3s, ranked sixth on the team. Kris Humphries, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Otto Porter, and Drew Gooden are all capable of shooting 3 balls, but all are wholly unreliable and under 35 percent on the year. Thus, the Wizards, as somewhat expected, rank 16th in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (24.4) and are, at least, fourth in team percentage at .366.

Finally, team defense at the 3-point line: Washington allows 24.0 3-point attempts per game, tied with the Raptors for 13th-most. Chicago allows 22.4 3-point attempts per game, tied with the Clippers and Thunder for eighth-fewest. The Wizards give up 38.3 percent shooting at the arc, second-highest in the league, while the Bulls allow 33.1 percent, seventh-lowest.

This game, in this make-or-miss league, will come down to who can secure the ball (as well as not turnover the ball) in order to attempt more shots, and who will, you know, actually make them. As to who is going to do more making, that’s anybody’s guess to miss.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.