The Wizards were right in the middle of the pack offensively, in a bunch of different categories. 16th in points per game at 100.7 and t-16th in offensive rating at 103.3 points per 100 possessions. 11th in effective field goal percentage and 15th in true shooting percentage. The Wizards were also in the middle third in turnover rate and offensive rebound rate, so nothing too groundbreaking there.
Washington is a solid passing team, posting an assist rate of 17.7, which actually tied the Bulls for seventh in the NBA. John Wall's general excellence is of course a big part of this, and Wall is superb at finding his teammates for good looks. In fact, Wall was third in the NBA in points created by assist per game, according to SportVU.
A large chunk of those points came from three-pointers. Rick Maese of The Washington Post noted that Wall assisted on 247 three-point baskets, which was a whopping 51 more than any other player in the league. The Wizards were tied with the Warriors for fourth in the league in three-point percentage at 38.0 percent, and Washington was the only team in the league to have four players make at least 100 threes. Those four would be Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Bradley Beal and Wall.
Maese and Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry also highlighted Wall's proficiency at finding open shooters in the corner, regarded as one of the best shots in the game. Ariza led the entire NBA in corner threes on the year with 81, and 55 of those threes were assisted by Wall, per NBA.com's stats page. That combo hooked up for by far the most corner threes in the league this season.
It's pretty clear that Wall is the straw that stirs the drink, and that's very evident by looking at how the Wizards performed with him on the bench. When Wall sat , the Wizards scored just 99.2 points per 100 possessions on the year, per NBA.com's stats page, a number which would rank second-to-worst in the league. Wall not only is excellent at finding teammates, but he can score for himself and has also improved his shooting. Wall was 59th in the NBA in isolation PPP per Synergy Sports, and he shot a career-high 35.1 percent from long range.
But while Wall is awesome and the Wizards have a bevy of good shooters, there are clearly some issues on the offensive end which led them to being just so-so. For one, Washington rarely got to the line, ranking t-25th in free-throw attempts per game. And when they did get to the line, there were issues making them, as the Wizards were 25th in free-throw percentage at 73.1 percent.
Another problem, and something that theoretically should play into the Bulls' hands, is the Wizards' reliance on the mid-range jumper. While the corner three is regarded as one of the best shots in basketball, the mid-range jumper is viewed by many as the worst. But Wizards coach Randy Wittman apparently doesn't care about those views, because Washington led the league in mid-range attempts this season, per NBA.com's stats page (Bulls were eighth). The Wizards made 38.1 percent of those attempts, good for 21st in the league, right behind Chicago.
Because the Wizards take and miss so many mid-range shots, it's not that big a surprise that they were a very poor pick-and-roll team. The Wizards were worst in the NBA in pick-and-roll PPP per Synergy, and yet, it's the play they used most often. The Bulls have consistently been one of the best in the league at defending pick-and-roll under Tom Thibodeau, and we know Thibs' ICE scheme promotes the mid-range jumper. Chicago forced the second-most mid-range shots in the league this season, per NBA.com's stats page, and they were actually first post-Deng trade. Meanwhile, the Bulls allowed the third-fewest three-pointers and were eighth in three-point percentage allowed.
All this being said, the Wizards did have quite a bit of success against the Bulls in the first two games, shooting over 50 percent in both contests. Wall proved to be a handful, although not surprisingly, SportVU says he fared much better against D.J. Augustin than Kirk Hinrich. The Wizards got a handful of other solid performances over the course of the series, although the Bulls generally did an excellent job battening down the hatches in the third game.
Marcin Gortat was one of the few to play well in that third game, and now that I've finally mentioned Gortat, I do have to note that he had a solid season. The big man averaged 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds on the year while shooting 54.2 percent, and he shot 58.6 percent in the three games against Chicago, faring surprisingly well against Joakim Noah, per SportVU. Gortat had the best net rating differential on the team and was the Wizards' best player in terms of ESPN's Real Plus-Minus stat (22nd in the league).
Know your Enemy
Know your Enemy
The Wizards' defense was actually a bit better than their offense on the season. Washington ranked ninth in points allowed at 99.4 points per game, and they were t-ninth in defensive rating, allowing 102.4 points per 100 possessions.
There are a few areas where they stood out. One, they forced a ton of turnovers. Washington forced 15.4 turnovers per game, which was t-fourth in the NBA. The Wizards did a good job turning defense into offense, ranking sixth in points off turnovers and also ranking first in transition PPP, according to Synergy. While not all of that is a function of turnovers, it does help illustrate how good the Wizards were at running off turnovers and simply in general. Once again, Wall deserves a ton of credit in this area. Wall ranked 10th in the NBA in steals and the dude is just a blur once he gets the ball in his hands in the open court.
Washington, like the Bulls, has also been very good at defending the pick-and-roll and the three. The Wizards ranked third in defending the pick-and-roll according to Synergy, and while they gave up more three-pointers per game than the Bulls, they actually allowed a slightly lower percentage. Although interestingly enough, the Bulls shot nearly 40 percent from deep in the three matchups this season.
Defensive rebounding was another strong suit for the Wizards this season. Washington was t-seventh in defensive rebound rate this year, grabbing 75.7 percent of the available defensive boards. That number, not too surprisingly, was 79.0 percent when Gortat and Nene were on the floor together, per NBA.com's stats page. The Bulls did have some success on the offensive boards in the season series, but it didn't provide much of an advantage.
The Gortat-Nene pairing was excellent defensively all season, as the Wizards gave up just 95.5 points per 100 possessions on the season with those two on the court. The individual defensive ratings of both players were both under 100 points per 100 possessions, and the Wizards were actually a train wreck defensively when Gortat was off the court. Gortat did a capable job protecting the rim this season, ranking in the top-50 of opponent field goal percentage at the rim, per SportVU. However, Noah did have a lot of success against Gortat in the season series, just like Gortat had success against Jo.
So where are some of the areas the Wizards have been exploited this year? According to Synergy, the Wizards had the most trouble defending cuts and isolation. Isos obviously aren't the Bulls' strong suit, but they do usually move the ball well and have capable cutters.
The struggles in those areas could help explain why the Wizards allowed rather high percentages at the rim and in the paint in general. While Gortat has proved to be a solid rim protector, Washington as a team allowed nearly 62 percent shooting in the restricted area, per NBA.com's stats page. The Wizards were also worst in the league at defending shots not at the rim, but in the paint. The prolonged Nene absence likely played a factor in this as well.
It would obviously be a bit much to expect the Bulls to have a ton of success offensively against this solid Wizards crew. While the Bulls' offense has improved over the course of the year, they still were just 26th in the league in offensive rating post-Deng trade, per NBA.com's stats page. Chicago fared slightly better against Washington, but just barely. So hopefully the Bulls can knock down some threes and try and exploit the Wizards' defensive weaknesses as much as possible.
To wrap this up, I just wanted to present a little lineup data to take a look at the Wizards' most-used lineups overall, and also in the fourth quarter:
Overall (via NBA.com's stats page)
The Wizards' most-used lineup wasn't all that impressive, but that's with Trevor Booker in for the oft-injured Nene. The two most-used lineups with Nene had a ton of success this season, further illustrating the excellence of the Nene-Gortat duo. The Bulls lost both games against the Wizards when Nene was healthy and won handily when he was out, so the big man could be a key in the series.
I'd also like to note at how absurdly good that reserve-heavy unit was offensively. Like, how in the heck was a lineup with Andre Miller, Al Harrington and Drew Gooden so great at scoring the ball? That's something.
Fourth quarter (via NBA.com's stats page)
The sample sizes are pretty small here, especially when you compare them to the Bulls' main fourth-quarter lineups. The Bulls had two fourth-quarter units log at least 134 minutes, with the primary group logging 174 minutes. Even so, the success of the Wizards' main group is mighty impressive, and that is the lineup that shut down the Bulls down the stretch of the second meeting this season.
Also, there's that Miller-Beal-Webster-Harrington-Gooden lineup doing work offensively again. Terrible defensively, but great offensively. Fun times.
So there you have it. I probably could have dug even deeper into the numbers, but I didn't want to bore y'all too much. After examining some of these stats, I'm still confident in the Bulls winning, but I don't anticipate it being easy.