It was a crazy end to the season filled with some disappointing losses, and Chicago could have climbed into the three seed with a win. However, despite playing everyone even into overtime, the Bulls fell to the Bobcats who were hoping to climb out of seventh to avoid Miami in the first round. They did their part, but Washington won to keep them in seventh.
With the Wizards win and the Nets finishing up the season with a couple of losses, Washington climbed up to the five seed to play Chicago in the first round. The Bulls now have a path of Washington, Indiana, and Miami to make it to the finals which, all things considered, is likely the path that gets them the furthest.
The Bulls and Wizards met in the playoffs in 2005 as a 4/5 combination as well. The Wizards won that series in six after the Bulls had taken the first two games. It was one of the rare times a team with a 2-0 lead didn't close out a series. Gilbert Arenas hit the famous game winner over Hinrich in game five, and I believe it was Kirk who through an inbounds pass off of Chris Duhon's back to blow game six.
The Bulls were missing Luol Deng and Eddy Curry that series so despite going in as the four seed were a couple of key players down. This time they enter the playoffs fully healthy. Perhaps Jen Swanson really did something to help this team. Besides Derrick's knee [I know, except for that how as the play Mrs Lincoln?], the Bulls have been awfully healthy this season.
This is the healthiest they've ever looked entering the post season in the Thibodeau era. Hopefully, they can keep that going.
As for the this matchup, Washington is a wild card to me. They're young and inexperienced when it comes to playoff basketball. However, they have perimeter athleticism, shooting, and a whole bunch of interior size. Those are three things the Bulls defense typically doesn't contain all that well.
Washington's biggest weakness is probably their youth on perimeter. They can be sloppy, turnover prone, and can struggle to score in the half court when they aren't able to get out on the break. If the Bulls turn the series into a bunch of half court games then Chicago should have the advantage.
If Washington can get out on the break and keep the tempo up, then they might struggle against the Wizards. It's worth noting, Washington was the only Eastern Conference team to win the season series against Chicago (2-1) though the Bulls won the last game where they annihilated the Wizards in Washington.
I don't think either team has a playoff gear, but I do think the Wizards are equipped to attack the Bulls where they're weak in many areas and have the interior size to keep Chicago from earning a large rebounding advantage.
This series is made for Taj Gibson and his new found range to be a difference maker. None of the Washington bigs are all that adept at defending away from the hoop, so Taj, Noah, and Boozer will have ample opportunities to rain down mid range jumpers. The problem is that's not the type of opportunity I really want to see the Bulls taking all game.
Gibson's been the most consistent of the three from mid range, but I hope Chicago fights for better looks unless those guys are simply on fire.
Is Chicago playing well?
It seems to be the consensus view that Chicago is firing on all cylinders going into the playoffs. I don't know that I agree though, the rebounding has seemed awfully suspect to me recently, and their defense hasn't looked nearly as good as it did in the past.
They've now lost two of their last three games as well, and even though they'd beaten up a bunch of scrub teams prior to that, I didn't feel they really played well in many of those wins. I think the Bulls have plenty of things to tighten up in the next three days before the playoffs start in order to prepare for the Wizards.
Many fans seem to think the Wizards will just roll over for Chicago, but I doubt that's the case. I think this is a 60/40 series. The Bulls aren't that much better than Washington, so while I predict the Bulls win, a loss certainly wouldn't surprise me. Bulls in six with D.J. Augustin nailing a clutch shot to break the hearts of Wizards fans on the road [okay, probably not, but someone needs to get revenge for Arenas, that one still hurts].
As a side note, the Bulls will pick 16th (via Charlotte) and 19th or 20th in the draft. The final pick will be decided by random drawing at a later date with Toronto and the Bulls having equal odds to win.
For my money I always thought the team who won the tie breaker for playoff seeding should automatically lose the tie breaker for the draft, but given that the four seed looks better than the three seed this year I won't complain overly much about it.
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