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Wizards at Bulls Pregame: Can The Wiz Halt The Bull Running?

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Washington at Chicago

January 11, 2016 at 8:00 PM
United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 99.1FM


Last time they met was..

March 3, 2015 – United Center, Chicago: Bulls 97, Wizards 92
READ: Game Notebook 61, Wizards at Bulls: A Night of Many Sins


What to watch

Assuming you aren’t watching the College National Championship Game on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPNClassic, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN.com, or on the WatchESPN Ap, then this is the game to tune in to. And maybe, just maybe, this is the game where the Washington Wizards get their mojo back.

The Wizards have been stuck in a season-long rut, digging for consistent answers, and instead digging themselves into a bigger and bigger hole. But this is the Chicago Bulls. And this Wizards core has a nice history against the Chicago Bulls. And just in case the Wizards needed a little extra fire, Joakim Noah will be returning from injury (Nene is in too!). Wizards games in the Windy City are the type you can throw the records to the wind.

But here are the records:

Wizards: 16-19, 12th in the Eastern Conference
Bulls: 22-13, 2nd in the Eastern Conference

And if you haven’t been paying attention, these are not your Tom Thibodeau Chicago Bulls. Gone are the days of Noah and Gasol plodding side by side. Gone are the days of slow, impotent offense. Gone are the days of pretending Derrick Rose is still the team’s best player when healthy.

After taking some time to adopt and implement new head coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense, the running of the Bulls has taken off recently. Over the last 10 games, the Bulls have the 5th best offensive rating in the NBA, and have won 7 of those 10 games. Over that same span, the Bulls undisputed best player, Jimmy Butler, has averaged 24 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. He also did this:

That’s a video of every point Jimmy Butler scored in the second half the other night against the Toronto Raptors, all FORTY of them. Butler’s 40 broke Michael Jordan’s record for most points in a half by a Chicago Bull. Anytime you break a Michael Jordan record, you’re doing big things. He also had two huge blocks to seal the victory.

Then again, as Wizards fans, the Jimmy Butler moment we all remember is this one:

So yea….throw out the records. Let’s throw down.


Key Matchup

John Wall vs. Derrick Rose

Years ago, this match-up was completely one-sided in favor of Derrick Rose. By last season, the pendulum had swung fully in favor John Wall. Wall needs to impose this superiority tonight. He averages 10 assists, compared to Rose’s 5, and scores 20 compared to Rose’s 15. And while Wall raises the level of all of his teammates, and is the main reason the Wizards aren’t significantly worse, Rose has been taking some heat for holding the Bulls back and preventing them from maximizing their full potential.

But that noise has been getting quieter of late. Rose has started to attack the basket with more confidence, just within the last few weeks, and has finally started making some of his paint attempts, after shooting dismally is the paint for most of the season. Rose’s turnovers are also down, as he’s now committing 2.8 turnovers per game, compared to Wall’s 4.5.

Wall should dominate this matchup. But Rose has been showing faint sparks of being able to dominate ANY match up for the first time in ages. Wall needs to turn those sparks to ashes tonight.


X-factor

Bobby Portis.

Remember Bobby Portis? Of course you do! And he’s starting to show why. Portis didn’t crack the rotation much early in the season, injuries gave Bobby a chance, and Bobby has (watch this!)….taken the Bull by the horns! (Nice!) Since the calendar turned to 2016, Portis is averaging 6 points and 8 rebounds in just 20 minutes per game. At home, he’s playing 25 minutes a game, averaging 9 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.

Yes, Portis doesn’t make spectacular plays or dominate games. But neither does Bismack Biyombo. And he killed us.


Fun factor

This goddamn play!

The Bulls will definitely try to run this play a few times against the Wizards, because they try to run it a few times against everyone, because it WORKS EVERY GAME!! Here’s the basic set:

Here it is again:

Here, the Knicks stopped it initially, but the Bulls make it work anyway:

And here it is again:

Have fun keeping your eye on this set. Watch for Butler coming to set a screen for the point guard on the wing. Check to see if Gasol is at the top of the key. Check to see if the Bulls are clearing out the entire area below the free throw line to the opposite side of the floor. And if everything checks out, scream “Watch the Alley-oop!” Cuz nothing is more fun than calling out a professional play correctly live before it happens in front of a bunch of people. Well, except of course if Nene sees the play coming and lays out Jimmy Butler instead!


Prediction

Nene does not see the play coming. The Bulls keep running. The Wizards can’t keep up.

we are Hoop District

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