For the Washington Wizards, making the playoffs was the goal, and everything else is a bonus. The Chicago Bulls looked like championship contenders, maybe even favorites, when the season began. Then injuries happened, and a trade. But something clicked, and an excellent blend of defense and rebounding, not to mention the weakness of the more popular choices for favorites in the East make them think about a title once more.
The Bulls have the second best defense in the league, giving up only 97 points per 100 possessions. Their offense isn’t a pretty sight, but a lot better than last season despite not having Rose and trading away Luol Deng for pretty much nothing. Noah has turned into a triple double machine this season and almost like the team’s actual point guard, only he spends a lot more time closer to the basket. He’s also their most important player on defense.
The Wizards won two of the three games between the teams this season, but the Bulls won the last encounter in April, with Nene already playing. The Wizards are about John Wall and Marcin Gortat,. Except for Martell Webster their bench has been atrocious, which means it’s going to be relatively easy for the Bulls to focus on their main concerns. Wall is averaging 19.3 points and 8.8 assists this season.
One problem for Washington will be rebounding. The Bulls attack the basket with Noah and Gibson, and guys like Jimmy Butler aren’t exactly standing on the outside waiting for things to develop. It means Trevor Ariza will have to get down and dirty more than he likes to, and the same goes for Gortat and Nene who are great to have on the offensive end but are quite limited defensively, with the same going for Bradley Beal who is one of those on and off players that can win games but also kill his own team with a cold streak.
D.J. Augustin coming off the bench for the Bulls is their leading scorer with 14.9 points per game. Him doing so well shows just how bad the point guard position was after Rose went down, but the Bulls have found the right balance between him and Kirk Hinrich, and sometimes it even seems like Chicago are turning into a team that has reliable and consistent outside threats. If they can get that going for them, this series won’t be as close as some might think.
Prediction – John Wall might be the best player on the floor in the series, but the Chicago Bulls can counter a point guard like him, and overall their defense and better bench should be enough to win the series in six games.