One of the smartest things the Chicago Bulls managed to do in game 3 as they beat the Washington Wizards for the first time in their playoff series was to move away from having Joakim Noah run their offense from the post. Now that Nene is suspended for game 4, there’s every reason to at least try and going back to that.
Why? Because Noah has struggled with Nene on both ends of the floor, although he seemed to handle it a bit better in game 3. The Bulls still locked down the lane, but Nene simply didn’t hit the jumpers as well as he did in the previous two games. When jump shots are your offense, you’re going to have inconsistent performances, especially when you get nothing inside.
The Bulls have other options. Mike Dunleavy isn’t just good at catch and shoot and is probably one of the better passers on the team. The Wizards will probably pay extra attention to how he moves around screens this time, which might open up other things for the Bulls. Like Jimmy Butler on the perimeter. He shot 2-for-5 from three in the win, and the Bulls need him at close to 40%, because this offense isn’t exactly exploding with shooters and guys who can create their own shot.
So Boozer and Hinrich can have the ball in their hands. Boozer can do a pretty good job on the post, but his offense comes and goes. If he’s able to at least run the offense for short spurts instead of digging his way in the paint with mixed results the Bulls will be happy. Kirk Hinrich is more of an usher these days, although he also can get hot from the outside.
D.J. Augustin is a wild card. He’s the most un-Bulls player on the team. Some might compare him to Nate Robinson from last season, but he isn’t a defensive liability like Robinson can be on nights when he doesn’t erupt into inexplicable scoring sprees.
The Bulls have got this, or at least have a hand on turning this series upside down. Gortat isn’t exactly the kind of big guy who can turn into a monster in the paint because his partner in crime is missing. The Wizards have plenty of power forwards on the bench, but none of them are options they’re really happy with. Drew Gooden, Al Harrington, Trevor Booker. Someone will have to step up. The Bulls are confident no one will.