[Thanks to fleng2 for today's game preview -yfbb]
6:00 CT / 7:00 ET / 4:00 PT | VERIZON CENTER, Washington, DC
The Bulls march into the nation's capital to take on the Wizards, a possible first round playoff opponent and the only Eastern conference team they haven't been able to take down this year. Last time the Bulls dueled the Wizards, it was close, but the defense was beaten up pretty badly. Washington had six players in double figures and shot over 50% from the field, not unlike what we did to the Bucks last night.
The Bulls struggle with elite point guards and John Wall has been shredding our defense this season. He's big and fast, sort of a Rose-lite. And while he is not quite the best point guard in the league, he might be the best point guard in the Eastern conference playoffs this year. Our boy is out, Rondo and Kyrie are not making the playoffs and DWill has taken a few steps back. Honestly, if I'm Wall, there's not a better chance to host my coming out party than this year.
It's not just him. His sidekick Bradley Beal completes the other half of the Wizards' athletic backcourt. He's got a gorgeous shot and is coming off a brilliant game against the Knicks last night. Beal has a chance to elevate his status in this playoffs as well.
Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and Nene (who is out tonight) complete the cast. A solid frontcourt, rugged defense and the second best 3-point shooting team in the league (seriously! only the Spurs are better behind the arc) has them going to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
But hey, it's not like the Bulls are a pushover. There's a reason we're battling the Raptors for the third seed in the East. We became the best defensive team in the league last night! Plus, we've got one of the best coaches in the league. But seriously, in Thibs we trust.
Taj ain't scared.
"When we're right we feel we can beat anybody. It's about getting the right mechanics and inspiration at the right time. Those two games they really jumped on us. We didn't know too much the way we should have, the way Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster were really hot shooters.
"They had Nene, they had just gotten Gortat and we didn't know what we were up against. They are playing really good basketball. We have to match that intensity."
The Bulls will try to contain the Wall-Gortat pick and roll and be sure to chase the shooters off the 3-point line. They have to keep up the strong rebounding going into the playoffs. On the offensive end, the team has to be balanced in their attack (seven guys in double figures last night!).
"Each night it could be someone different. Whoever has the hot hand or a favorable matchup, that's the way we want to go, share the ball, make the right plays, make the right decisions."
Randy Wittman is a bit more poetic.
"When a guy gets hot, you've got to ride that pony."
Lets, uh, ride that pony to victory tonight?
BULLS PROJECTED STARTERS
F - Dunleavy
F - Boozer
C - Noah
G - Butler
G - Hinrich
Bench - Gibson, Mohammed, Augustin, Snell, Murphy, Fredette
WIZARDS PROJECTED STARTERS
F - Trevor Ariza
F - Trevor Booker
C - Marcin Gortat (huddle-crasher)
G - Bradley Beal
G - John Wall