The Washington Wizards are in the playoffs for the first time since the 07-08 season and I’m excited. However, what I am not excited about is their opponent, the Chicago Bulls. I’ve literally gone through every emotion possible since learning of the best of seven series against the Bulls. At first, I was confident. My confidence quickly turned to doubt and within a matter of hours, I was already predicting a Bulls series win in 5 games. As much as I try and believe that the Wizards are better than their 44-38 record, the bottom line is, very few teams have been playing as well as Chicago has been over the last 32 games.
After getting blown out in Golden State back on Feb 6th, the Bulls have been taking out their frustrations on the rest of the league. They finished the season 24-8 and had win streaks of 4, 5 and 7 games throughout that stretch which included a 96-78 win over the Wizards at Verizon Center. Granted, it was the Wizards second game of a back to back after going to the wire against the Knicks the night before, but I am of the mindset that that particular Chicago Bulls team is the one that Wizards fans should expect to see in the playoffs.
To put the Bulls second half of the season in perspective, the longest winning streak the Wizards had all year was only six games and they failed to win more than three games in a row at any other point throughout the course of the season. This may seem like a meaningless stat but it tells me a lot about how teams can dictate a series in the post season. The good teams with playoff experience (Miami, Chicago, Indiana) know what it takes to go deep in the postseason. If you want to make a run for the Finals, you have to make quick work of your opponents in the early rounds of the playoffs to prepare yourself for a 6 or 7 game series in the conference finals or maybe even the NBA finals. Very rarely do you see teams go 7 games in the first round and go to the Finals. Washington Capitals fans know this all too well. By no means is this is no knock on the Wizards but it does indicate that Chicago has the ability to put together a nice string of wins and make easy work of a team early in the post season.
With all the talk about the Bulls, it’s very easy to overlook a lot of the success the Washington Wizards have had this season. Regardless of how this series turns out, there finally seems to be optimism around this team moving forward. The core of this roster is young, dynamic and have all the potential in the world to be some of the best players in the league. John Wall has literally turned into a superstar right in front of our eyes; Bradley Beal looks to be the exact opposite of Ernie Grunfeld’s previous draft history and there’s not much to be said about the acquisition of Marcin Gortat that hasn’t already been said. Personally, I think he’s been the team’s most valuable player.
A lot has been said, and rightfully so, about the play of Trevor Ariza (albeit in a contract year) and his stellar shooting. Also, the growth of John Wall and the X-factor that is Nene but without Gortat, I don’t think this team even makes the postseason in the Eastern Conference. Marcin is also the type of guy in the locker room that a young team needs. He’s extremely unselfish, he’s charismatic and is always the first one to take blame for something. He rarely points the finger anywhere else other than at himself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to Gortat about a certain play in the game or a particular series on defense and the first thing out of his mouth is, “that was my fault. I have to be better.” I specifically remember the second to last game the Wizards played against Charlotte after a rather poor performance on his end he described defending Al Jefferson as a “humbling experience for him.” I get the vibe that the guys love having Gortat in the locker room and the chemistry between him and Wall has done wonders for John’s game. People make the case that John’s greatest gift as a basketball player is that he makes players around him better, I could make the same case for Gortat right now. Great defender, tough on the boards and is a great passer from the low block. He’s the perfect compliment to Nene and Wall.
A dream series
While I’m extremely pessimistic about the Wizards chances in this series, let’s just dream a little, shall we?
How amazing would it be if the Wiz Kids came out and just destroyed the Bulls?
Forget the fact that Chicago has the best defense in the league. Forget the fact that United Center leads the league in attendance and will make for a crazy atmosphere, forget the fact that Joakim Noah is arguably one of the best centers in the league.
How amazing would it be if we saw the Wizards run up and down the court and average 110 PPG in this series? You know, like John Wall in his playoff debut averaging 22, 10 and 8. Bradley Beal in his postseason debut goes off for 25 and 6. Drew Gooden has been resurrected and averages 15 points off the bench. So many possibilities to work with!
How amazing would it be if the Wizards swept the Bulls and won each game by an average of 20 points?
The year the Mavericks won the title, no one expected it. What if the Wizards are the 2014 version of the 2011 Mavericks?
That, my friends, would be amazing.
Let’s go Wiz!