Game 2: Wizards at Bulls
April 22, 2014 at 9:30 PM
United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan
Projected starting lineups:
C- Marcin Gortat
SF- Trevor Ariza
SG- Bradley Beal
PG- John Wall
C- Joakim Noah
PF- Carlos Boozer
SF- Mike Dunleavy
SG- Jimmy Butler
PG- Kirk Hinrich
22-19. That was the Wizards road record for this season. So why are you shocked that they stole Game 1? That split was good enough for 3rd in the NBA behind Miami and…wait for it…wait for it…The Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors’ record on the road is great in relativity, but their home record is even better. Then again, they just lost to the Brooklyn Nets in Toronto. The Brooklyn Nets went into the Raptors home and stole Game 1. The Brooklyn Nets had a 16-25 road record this season, a stark contrast to their 28-13 record at home. Speaking of home records, do you know who had the best record at home this season? The Indiana Pacers.
The #1 seed that just lost homecourt advantage to the Atlanta Hawks, a team without their best player in Al Horford. Yeah, exactly. This is the NBA Playoffs. Stealing Game 1 doesn’t mean anything. The Bulls have just as good of a chance at stealing Game 3. What does matter is the way that the Washington Wizards came back from a large deficit to win that game. The point is, don’t count your eggs before they hatch. It’s Washington D.C. sports tradition get a tad bit excited by any glimmer potential, and before you know it the series is 2-2 headed back to Chicago. Now let’s get down to brass tacks…
If you go on Google and search “Nene” the first thing that comes up is Nene Leakes. If you don’t know who that is, she’s a television personality that was on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” I think after this series that all might change. I might even convince myself that Nene is playing this good to prove Google and it’s search engine users wrong more so than all of his former teams, his personal and professional detractors, or various ex-girlfriends. By the way, if technology allows for dictionaries to have video examples for the definitions of words in the future, it’s safe to say this one will go under the word “facial.” At least after the first slew of Jenna Jameson MPEG’s. *Buffering*
Joakim Noah decided to sag off of Nene early in the game and there was no hesitation on the latter’s part to drain jumpers and backpedal before the shots even went in. They went in, though. Nearly every time, it seemed. Once Nene had Noah on his heels, it didn’t matter as much if he played any closer. Nene was hot. He ended the game 5-for-5 on shots in which he had a defender within 4 feet from him. Noah was on his heels. Anytime Nene drove to the rim without a man in front of him, nobody even dared to contest the dunk attempts.
Look for Joakim to come out pressing early and often to see if Nene still has that same pep to his step. As much as I’m rooting for a repeat performance, Noah is gritty and has a high basketball I.Q. Nene on the other hand has had a propensity to become banged up at the most inopportune times. Nene should pick up on Noah’s aggressiveness early and utilize more pump fakes to force Joakim into some foul trouble. Nene did log 35 minutes last game so Wittman will have to find the most opportune moments for him to get a breather because the Wizards can’t afford to go much smaller in the lineup.
That goes for Martell Webster and Trevor Booker.
Granted, Booker is a little undersized and it showed as he struggled against Noah and Boozer in the paint. Webster struggled at stopping Jimmy Butler off the dribble and only had three points for the entire game. To his defense, Webster had less touches than minutes in the game. He was the only Wizards to be associated with the stat. The Webster detractors will likely point to his inability to hit open threes on occasion and for being one-dimensional on offense. His supporters will point to his timely makes and occasional four-point plays. I’ll have to side with the detractors here just for the mere fact that the Wizards signed him to convert open shots.
It’s clear that the Wizards had an idea in mind on what they wanted their offense to look like in every move they made. They drafted Bradley Beal and kept Trevor Ariza – two guys with massive potential from downtown. They traded for Marcin Gortat and Nene, two guys who can step back and hit jumpers and also run the floor. They signed Webster to pretty much the entire Mid-Level Exception just to come off the bench and shoot the ball well. We already know he will struggle against Jimmy Butler who will likely be much more aggressive tonight after seeing film of how he had Webster on his heels all game.
Look for the Bulls to open up those ISO situations and put Jimmy to work in the post or at the top of the elbow. I love me some Trevor Booker. He’s like the little engine that could. He’s the lion from Wizard of Oz if he had courage from the start. He’s what Jimmy McGinty was talking about. He’s got heart. Miles and miles of heart. You can’t teach height though. Size is size is size is size.
When Nene drew Taj Gibson on the defensive end, he absolutely punished him. When Gibson drew Nene on that same end, Nene frustrated Gibson to no end. Flip that around in terms of Booker and Boozer and it’s the same thing. Boozer bullied Booker in the post, on the glass, in the cafeteria, you name it. The Wizards inserted Drew Gooden eventually and it helped a little. If Booker wants to continue to have playing time he needs to box out tonight as if his life depended on it. His minutes surely do depend on it. I do love the confidence in his jumper, however. He never shows hesitation from the mid-range and the better he shoots the more the paint will open up for him and the rest of the Wizards.
Remember when it was reported that the Wizards COVETED Andre Miller? I felt sick to my stomach. Desired? Okay. Wanted? Got it. COVETED?
Hannibal Lecter: “No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now. Clarice Starling: No. We just… Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?”
Ernie Grunfeld: “It rubs the lotion on its skin. It trades whatever it’s told.”
Nuggets GM Tim Connelly: “Please mister, let me go! My organization will give you anything you want!”
Ernie Grunfeld: “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again! Give us Andre Miller! NOW!”
The Bulls will be ready for Andre Miller this time. You can see that herky-jerky slow motion crossover from a mile away. Then again, the NBA has seen it coming from a mile away for years now. Doesn’t mean it’s been completely stopped. Miller is too savvy and creative in the post to be completely stopped from scoring a few buckets. Miller’s true challenge tonight will be knowing when to attack and when to defer. Miller finds himself playing with Bradley Beal quite often considering Wall usually hits the bench and Randy Wittman keeps Beal in to run a little with the AARP unit. Miller’s job tonight will be helping Beal raise that field goal percentage by deferring when necessary and driving and kicking out to Beal so that he can make some jumpers in rhythm.
I can’t even front. The usually docile Trevor Ariza showing some emotion in Game 1 would have been quite a turn-on if I was into that sorta thing. The three-point marksman grows on us day by day, day by day by day by day…Amen.
Truth About It’s Kyle Weidie knows this. As he points in his SlamOnline article, Ariza sort of fell the craft that has now become his signature. In his first four seasons, Ariza shot 9 for 43 from behind the arc. By 2008-2009, Ariza jumped to 31.9%. Whether it was the “Shooting Bible” that Kobe provided him, or a foot surgery that led him to refine all of his mechanics while rehabbing, Ariza upped it another level in the ensuing playoffs. Ariza shot 47.6% from downtown en route to an NBA championship. He wasn’t just a role player that year. He was arguably the third most important player on that team. He followed up his stint in L.A. with lackluster seasons in Houston and New Orleans, and now he finds himself here. He’s been consistently rumored in trade talk.
Ariza and “expiring contract” have always been synonymous. Ariza makes some boneheaded plays at times, but he’s one of the most reliable Wizards right now. He’s going to run straight to his corner and knock down triples. He’s going to lock down scorers at times, and if he gives up 25 points to Carmelo he’s going to make sure he worked hard for every bucket.
The vehicle of Ariza’s success wasn’t built with brakes. He’s on a long city street that never ends with green lights showing as far as he can see. No bullets left in the chamber. Trevor Ariza, from downtown, BANG!
John Wall = More than the Box Score
Yes, John Wall didn’t exactly have a gaudy stat line. He shot less than 50% from the field. He somehow let Kirk Hinrich score on him going to the baseline with a reverse layup. Yes, I cringed too. However, John Wall’s impact goes well beyond points scored. It goes beyond even assists and rebounds. I’m not saying he had a great game, because he definitely didn’t. Then again, the game turned on the Wizards in the 2nd quarter. Mike Dunleavy got hot and was seemingly left open from behind the arc nearly every play.
John Wall closed out so hard on the shooters in the 2nd half that they hesitated to shoot it over him. When they tried to dribble drive past him, thinking he had lost his angle advantage, Wall recovered quick enough to cut them off. Wall is the only player on that team with the athleticism to do that. It changed the game. It completely bogged down the Bulls offense.
Wall needs to do a better job of containing Kirk Hinrich. A few bouts of laziness led to some jumpers and a couple inside scores by Hinrich. If Wall can limit Hinrich and also stay away from forcing errant passes across the middle of the floor, he should do great tonight. His defense is great enough in the times he’s playing full speed that it can change a game.
The Bulls intercepted his signature cross-court lob passes and I’m sure Wall will make an adjustment tonight. Those interceptions led to some eventual mistimed passes to shooters that forced some hesitation on potential shots by Ariza and Beal. Fixing the timing on those passes will get some more opportunities from downtown for the Wiz Kids. Against a defense like Chicago, those extra opportunities could be the difference between winning and losing a game.
Attack screens. Stop Boozer from shooting that rainbow jump shot. Don’t let Mike Dunleavy breathe. Eat Srichacha and then breathe heavily onto Kirk Hinrich’s goggles. Crash the boards as if the ball touching the hardwood or the hands of a Bulls player would result in your favorite T.V. show being canceled. Oh, you let Taj Gibson get ANOTHER rebound!? No Purple Wedding for you.
• Al Harrington. Do something. Hit a three. Grab a rebound. No fadeaways please.
• Otto Porter. One day you’ll log some playoff minutes. It just wont be anytime soon. I still think you’re quite swell though.
• Nene is an absolute terror for Gibson. Gibson couldn’t dribble, shoot, or even gain control of the rock whenever Nene was in his vicinity. Let’s see if they draw each other tonight
• When Nene is this hot, Gortat needs to do all the dirty work. If he continues to cut and dive into the lane, Nene should find him. Nene is the best interior passer on the team and he and Gortat have some sort of telepathic connection. I can feel it. I can feel it in my plums.
What else I’d like to see:
• Bradley Beal driving into the lane for points in the paint or jumpers closer to the elbows of the free-throw line.
• John Wall following the Isaiah Thomas formula for Point Guard dominance. Distribute and get guys involved for the first three quarters and take over in the 4th quarter.
• Beal and Ariza being more assertive in going around screens set for Mike Dunleavy. The guy runs around as many picks as Ray Allen right now. Can’t let him get hot again.
• Making Jimmy Butler work hard on defense so he can spend less time reading John Wall’s passes.
• A Godfather III remake.
Okay, okay. A guy can dream right?