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Wizards vs. Bulls pregame: Can Wiz break out of mediocrity?

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Wizards (16-19) at Bulls (17-18)

January 13, 2014 at 8:00 PM
United Center, Chicago, IL
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- Tony Snell
PG- Kirk Hinrich

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Key matchup:

John Wall v. Kirk Hinrich

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Kirk Hinrich’s reputation as a defensive stopper has probably faded, but he’s doing a solid job filling Rose’s void and conducting a starting five of players not completely known for their offensive ability. Hinrich has been doing a good job keeping his turnovers down, too.

John Wall has the clear speed and quickness advantage in this match-up, but he’ll need to get off to a solid start shooting. Wall will excel in the transition game against Hinrich, but a slow start in the half court will bode well for Chicago. Wall has shot over 40% from the floor once over his last seven games.

Spotlight:

Trevor Ariza.

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The bright side to Washington’s recent erratic play has been Trevor Ariza. With the exception of last Saturday’s Pacers game (in which everyone played poorly), Ariza has been solid. Ariza nailed the key three-pointer to seal the road win in New Orleans, and tied John Wall for the team lead in points in Saturday’s game against the Rockets. With the up and down play of the Wizards’ front court, Washington will rely on Ariza’s shooting.

In the Bulls match-up, Ariza’s perimeter defense will be on display against Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell – two wings who are known more for their ability to hit long jumpers than their ability to slash.

The X-factor:

Bench play.

Bench play will be key in this game. For the Wizards, Nene will have to put up a good performance against the younger, better rebounding Taj Gibson, who anchors the Bulls’ second unit. The Wizards will also have to contend with D.J. Augustin, who is making the most of his increased minutes in Rose’s absence. Augustin is coming off a 20 point performance in Chicago’s win against the Bobcats, and a 13 point performance two games ago against the Suns.

For Washington, we’re all waiting for Martell Webster to find his shooting touch. Moving on.

On a positive note, Kevin Seraphin’s 18 point performance surely caught the attention of the coaching staff. I’d look for him to get some minutes early, especially if Gortat struggles early from the field. For Wizards fans, it’s yet another tease from Kevin.

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What happened last time they played?

This is the first of three match-ups with the Bulls.

Who’s hurt?

For the Wizards, Al Harrington and Glen Rich, Jr. are out.

The Bulls will certainly be without Derrick Rose. Jimmy Butler is questionable for tonight’s game.

Outlook:

Do the Bulls know they’re bad? Do they know that playing to the level of their talent deficiency will land them a nice pick in this year’s loaded draft? The answer to both questions may be no.

“There’s no tanking, and that’s it.” — Joakim Noah

Despite losing their best player (once again) to a serious injury and jettisoning their second best player in a salary dump, Chicago has won five in a row and eight of their last 10.

How are they doing it? Balance. During their recent hot streak, nearly all of the Bulls’ starters have been scoring in double figures. They’ve also been getting a nice bench lift from D.J. Augustin and solid contributions from rookie Tony Snell, a player unafraid to rock the anachronistic long cornrows. Fight the good fight, brother!

Then there are our enigmatic Wizards, who come off see-saw, rain-slicked loss to the Rockets. Washington has looked great in recent road wins against the Bobcats and Pelicans, and awful against better competition (Pacers, Warriors, and Raptors).

If Washington wants to be taken seriously as a playoff contender (albeit in a terrible East), they’ll have to win these sorts of games. Although the Bulls are depleted, the Wizards are equally, if not more talented.
This is a good road test. I’ll take the Wiz.

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