The Playoffs finally, finally begin Sunday night as the Bulls host the only other team Michael Jordan ever played for, the resurgent Wizards, in the first game of a best of seven series.
Including the regular season, this will be the fourth meeting between these two teams. All three meetings have taken place in the 2014 portion of the 2013-14 season, with the Wizards winning the first two matchups and the Bulls winning the third. Unsurprisingly, John Wall was the primary threat, averaging over 20 points and 8 assists against the Bulls.
The first contest, which took place on January 13th, saw the Wizards control the pace for its entirety on their way to a 102-88 victory. They were led in scoring by Nene (19 pts), who just made his return in time for the playoffs. John Wall also had 19 points and 7 assists. The Bulls were led by Carlos Boozer with 19 points of his own. The Wizards shot 52% from the field, while the Bulls shot 43%, which tells you all you really need to know about this game. The second matchup, which took place only 4 days later in Washington, was also won by the Wizards (96-93), who were once again led in scoring by John Wall with 23. The Bulls were led by Kirk Hinrich’s 18 point outburst. Washington once again shot above 50% from the floor, and hit 6 of 11 from deep. The third and final matchup took place barely two weeks ago and saw the Bulls throttle Washington in the first half and weather a third quarter storm en route to a 96-78 victory. The Wizards shot well under 40% from the field, had a eFG of .413, and barely got to the free throw line, all in all one of the better defensive performances on the season from Chicago. John Wall hit the 20 point mark despite this effort, but this time D.J. Augustin came to play, finishing with 25, in one of his better late season scoring explosions (of which he had many).
In the end, this is the Key Matchup: John Wall vs D.J. Augustin. Augustin has been nothing short of miraculous at times this season, and if the Bulls are going to take this series, logic dictates that he’s going to have to do it at least once. Joakim Noah will likely play his best, but the separation between him and Gortat/Nene is a lot smaller than the one between John Wall and Kirk Hinrich and Augustin. This isn’t to say Hinrich won’t play well, as he matches up with Wall decently well, but Augustin is going to have to be to be the one who carries the load offensively (which is the most terrifying sentence possible). It still doesn’t seem like anyone has consistently tried to defend him as a number one option, and these are the playoffs, where *everyone* plays like the Bulls, so if Augustin can’t get those open shots he’s proven to be so deadly with, the Bulls might be done this time next week.
Probable Starting Lineups
Chicago Bulls (48-34, 2nd in Central, 4th in East).
C- Joakim Noah, 7th season. 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.5 blocks.
PF- Carlos Boozer, 12th season. 13.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists.
SF- Mike Dunleavy, 12th season. 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists.
SG- Jimmy Butler, 3rd season. 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 steals.
PG- Kirk Hinrich, 11th season. 9.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists.
Washington Wizards (44-38, 2nd in Southeast, 5th in East)
C- Marcin Gortat, 7th season. 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists.
PF- Trevor Booker, 4th season. 6.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists.
SF- Trevor Ariza, 10th season. 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals.
SG- Bradley Beal, 2nd season. 17.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists.
PG- John Wall, 4th season. 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.8 steals.