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Gameday: Wizards vs. Bulls – Winning formula or a recipe for disaster?

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Bulls (18-19) at Wizards (18-19)

January 17, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan

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Projected starting lineups:

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C- Marcin Gortat
PF- Trevor Booker
SF- Trevor Ariza
SG- Bradley Beal
PG- John Wall

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C- Joakim Noah
PF- Carlos Boozer
SF- Mike Dunleavy
SG- Jimmy Butler
PG- Kirk Hinrich

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Key matchup:

Nene v. Carlos Boozer

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It’s probably fair to say that Nene reached the pinnacle of his injury-prone season to date when these two teams met just a few nights ago in DC. Nene roared back into the starting lineup after a 12-game stretch on the bench, bombarding the stat sheets for 19 points, 5 rebounds/assists, 2 blocks/steals, and a trio of rib jarring dunks. The Bulls’ front court of Noah and Boozer struggled to counter Nene’s versatility on the floor. Nene went 9-for-14 from the field that night including 5 shots from 12 feet or more. His ability to stretch the floor from the 4 position is wondrous for the Wizards in half court sets and a problem for opposing big defenders. Since his two games back in the lineup, Nene has average 19 points in 35 minutes.

What concerns me the most about all this production is the imminence of recurring injuries. I asked Nene after the Heat game how he felt his increased burn will affect his health as the season wears on.

“For sure the coach is going to control the minutes. If I feel good, he leave me in, but if I feel something he’s going to do what he’s supposed to.”

Boozer wasn’t too shabby himself against the Wizards on Monday. Like Nene, Boozer’s range offers the Bulls some adequate spacing on offense although he’s a bit sharper from areas closer to 20 feet. In the matchup earlier this week Boozer finished with 19 points, stroking buckets off the pick and pop, spot up J’s, as well as from the post. Boozer followed up his performance against the Bulls with a superb outing in Orlando on Wednesday, scoring 23 points in 28 minutes including eight buckets from outside 15 feet.

The key for tonight’s matchup down low will be Nene’s respectability for Boozer’s range. Nene must manage to linger outwards defensively on Boozer to contain him from getting comfortable looks.

Spotlight:

Randy Wittman’s rotations

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For the second game in a row, Wittman applied an 8-man shuffle and, well, he was successful both times. But while the concept has rendered positive results, it’s certainly can’t be a long term solution. Wittman by no means has committed to the 8-man rotation as a winning formula, but the longer he continues to administer this strategy, the bigger the risk becomes. The risk of wear and tear. The risk of injury with no sufficient replacement. The risk of stalling the development of younger guys.

In terms of game planning, it’ll be interesting to see how many guys Wittman plays tonight after decisively beating the Bulls just three nights ago with eight players.

The X-factors:

Free throws. Over much of the season, the Wizards have been maligned for their minimal trips to the charity stripe, ranking in the bottom 10 in that department. However, over the past five games the Wizards have improved their number of trips to the line, averaging just under 27 attempts per game in that stretch, which is about a seven attempt increase from their season average. Problem is.. they’ve shot a ghastly 64% when they get there. Far too often we’ve seen our Wiz Kids lose close games with the missed free throws being the difference, which is why this is an X-factor obviously.

What happened last time they played?

The Wizards snapped a 2-game slide and won their seventh road game in nine tries, beating the Bulls 102-88 earlier this week. As spotlighted above, Wittman went with a successful 8-man rotation led by Nene and John Wall who scored 19 points apiece.

Who’s hurt?

Al Harrington and Glen Rice are still out for the Wizards. The Bulls are all good if you discount Derrick Rose.

Outlook:

The Bulls and Wizards once again matchup with their records tied and their hopes set on getting back to .500. For the Wizards this will be their fourth attempt this season at numeral mediocrity with their distant sights set on finally claiming a winning record. The formula is simple, though:

  • John Wall destroys Kirk Hinrich.
  • The Wizards front court must out-hustle Chicago’s tandem of Noah and Boozer.
  • Bradley Beal. Brad Beal. RealDealBeal. B3AL.
  • Get to the line and make your free throws. Because they’re FREE!

Wizards continue streak tonight and give fans another elusive home win.

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