The Eastern conference is a lot more open than people gave it credit for earlier on in the season, and the Chicago Bulls should be taken seriously as a team that can make noise in the playoffs, looking very impressive of late and throughout most of their 96-78 win against the Washington Wizards which included an excellent bench performance from D.J. Augustin and some more All-Around greatness from Joakim Noah.
At the moment these two teams are going to meet for a best-of-seven series in the first round of the playoffs. The Bulls lost to the Wizards twice earlier in the season, and seemed to be in a statement making mood heading into the encounter, playing close to perfect defense in the first half, holding the Wizards to only 26 points while scoring 52 themselves.
Things got a little bit more even later on and Washington brought things back to 11 thanks to John Wall playing a little bit faster and the Wizards seeing a lot more of the open floor instead of getting jammed in their half court offense. However, Joakim Noah with some big baskets and D.J. Augustin continuing with his hot hand from long range made sure that that was as close as the home team got.
Everyone on both sides after the game talked about a statement. The Bulls needing a statement, the Wizards needing one. It turned out to be a knockout right from the start. Augustin finished with 25 points and although once more he didn’t seem like the king of efficiency, he had plenty of good shots from long range, hitting six 3’s. Joakim Noah wasn’t in a big assisting mood, but did have a very good performance with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and the Bulls were quite happy not having to deal with Nene, who’ll be back in time for the postseason.
Carlos Boozer had 16 points and looked sharp and quick to react in the paint and Jimmy Butler did an excellent job on defense. He had a very rough shooting night with 1-of-9 from the field and only 3 points, but he did have 6 rebounds and 9 assists, not to mention a lot of very good moments on both Beal and Ariza. Taj Gibson had 8 points and 7 rebounds, and the Bulls were at their best with him, Augustin and Butler on the floor.
John Wall finished with 20 points, Marcin Gortat had 19 and Bradley Beal finished with 14. However, the Wizards were constantly forced into taking bad shots, especially in the first half, and finished with only 3-of-16 from beyond the arc. They couldn’t get into the paint during the first half and got close to nothing from their bench, not having anyone to cover for Trevor Ariza who was playing ill and looked the part with 1-of-9 from the field.
The Chicago Bulls might not look like one for most of the time, but it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if they make a serious challenge at the Eastern crown. The Heat and Pacers are vulnerable, a lot more than last season, and Chicago have the defense and intelligence on the court and the sidelines to hold on through a series with both teams.
We lost to these guys at home. We lost to them here. It was just getting this win tonight. We’re not looking forward to the playoffs just yet, but we wanted to come out tonight and do it for ourselves.