home 2014-15, Blogs, Game Coverage Wizards vs. Bulls Preview: Containing the bigs; knocking the Bulls’ hustle; Wall vs. Rose

Wizards vs. Bulls Preview: Containing the bigs; knocking the Bulls’ hustle; Wall vs. Rose


Chicago (25-11) at Washington (24-11)

January 9, 2015 at 8:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: ESPN/CSN Washington
Radio: 99.1 FM

Last Time They Met

December 23, 2014: Chicago 99, Washington 91

Much can be said about that crisp December evening just a few weeks ago. The Chicago Bulls had finally attained a fully revived Derrick Rose; they were flossing an 18-9 record and in full blown pursuit of Eastern Conference hierarchy. Meanwhile the Wizards, just a fraction of a percentage better than the Bulls, were gearing up for what would by far be their most important test of their season.

The Bull handled the Wizards pretty well for about three and a half quarters that night. It was just past the midway mark of the 4th when the fireworks of two elite point guards evolved into an all out volcanic eruption. With the Wizards losing their ground and trailing the Bulls by 11, getting help was imperative and so John Wall decided to take matters personally.

This is the part where you imagine Wall cruising downcourt while robotic transformations start to take over his body and by the time the official timeout has expired, he had fully morphed into the mighty Optimus Dime. Over the next two minutes, Wall would just about single-handedly douse the Bulls, leading the Wizards on a 12-0 run in which he scored 10 of those points. The outburst by Wall was the effect of a brief stretch of stifling defense the Wizards put on the Bulls, and Wall dominated the opportunities it created for him.

But Chicago certainly had their Megatron on hand and fully engaged to counter Washington’s impulsive attack. After two Jimmy Butler free throws, Rose locked in for a destructive burst of his own, firing off 8 straight points to give the Bulls a comfortable lead in the winding seconds before skipping his lou 60 feet back to the Bulls bench.

Containing Gasol is imperative tonight. Pau was practically indefensible from knocking down midrange after midrange the last time he faced the Wizards, finishing with 18 points on 7-13 shooting. The bigs for the Wizards are going to have to find ways to disrupt his rhythm and hound him into bad spots and getting rid of the ball. But this type of stuff is where Chicago is primed for success offensively having two towering bigs who can attack the rim and shoot well from around the perimeter. The Wizards are simply going to have to bite some bullets and pick from a platter of poison tonight.

Also, please bear in mind that Gasol has not missed a beat since that night. Over the 8 games played since the Wizards on December 23, Pau has averaged 18.4 points, 10 rebounds and 2.8 blocks. The New Year has already bestowed a good amount of prosperity on Gasol, as evidenced by the outrageous numbers he’s put up in recent games:

1/5 vs. Houston: 27 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks
1/3 vs. Boston: 29 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks
1/1 vs. Denver: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 9 blocks

50/50 balls and the hustle game. Gotta dominate on 50/50 opportunities when you’re squaring up against a team with mammoth-sized talent like the Bulls. Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol both hit ridiculous buzzer-beating shots to end quarters, while the Bulls as a team out-rebounded the Wizards 52-41. While Gasol and Noah are bound to get theirs on the glass (combined for 20 rebounds last game), it’s when the second unit is on the floor where the Wizards need to key in on getting stops and getting rebounds. Taj Gibson is an excellent all-around presence who, despite a smaller frame, uses his gifted strength and ability to box out to grab rebounds and alter plays. He had 7 boards off the bench for the Bulls against the Wizards. Keep Nikola Mirotic on your radars as well. He finished with 7 points and 5 boards in just 14 minutes AND THEY ALL MATTERED.

Here’s that annoying Derrick Rose buzzer-beater, right before halftime.

Speaking of Derrick Rose… While Rose has been about as close to 100% as we’ve seen him in a while, all has not been well for him shooting the ball since the last time he faced Wall and the Wizards. In his last six games, Rose has made only 28 of 110 shots, the worst slump of his career. Rose seems to be undeterred by the recent struggles, simply writing them off as “just part of the game” and saying that he won’t stop shooting. Shooting slumps are natural, sure, but a six-game stretch of just 25% shooting from the field is an eyebrow raiser, and something I’m hopeful the Wizards are looking to pounce on by notching up their defensive intensity in the event that Rose has lost any confidence. The Bulls come in to Chinatown tonight off of a 20-point loss to a bad Jazz team, where they encountered one of their worst shooting nights of the season, making just 33% of their shots.

Here’s a few Vines of John Wall’s 4th quarter outburst against the Bulls. You’re welcome.

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