NBA Wizards 

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards

The NBA playoffs are upon us and it’s time to take a look at these series. The Western conference has been the talk of the town, but the Eastern Conference playoffs should be very entertaining too. One of the better series that we’ll see in the East should be Chicago versus Washington.  In this we’ll see two of the top 10 defenses in the league go at it and two of the very best players in the league go head to head as well. This should be very entertaining.

Let’s take a look at how these teams stack up against each other.

Washington Wizards

Record: 44-38

Off. Efficiency: 103.3

Def. Efficiency: 102.4

There aren’t many pundits who are giving the Wizards a shot in this series. They’re citing playoff experience as the reason why–mainly because this is John Wall and Bradley Beal’s first run at things. John Wall has emerged as one of the better point guards in the league this season, so if he plays well the Wizards will definitely have a shot at things.

But the biggest positive in this series for Washington is going to be that they shouldn’t have to worry about Chicago scoring all that much. Defending the Bulls will be no easy task, though. Although their offensive efficiency isn’t as pronounced as some teams’, they’ll need to make sure that they defend Joakim Noah. Noah is the Bulls’ fulcrum on the offensive end–he serves as their facilitator and gives them extra possessions through his offensive rebounding and scruffy defending.

He has a 2.2 assist to turnover ratio while averaging 5.4 assists per game, so that will be something that will be difficult to stop. Noah is excellent at delivering timely passes to cutters as they swing down into the paint. It won’t be easy to track their cutters because the Bulls run so much misdirection to free them up. As bad as their offense is, it’s very quick twitch and it forces the defense to read things at a fast pace. Pick and rolls with Noah at the key will lead to quick bounce passes to cutting players.

If the Wizards don’t make sure to pressure Noah and force him to put the ball on the floor, he’ll make plays like that all series. They’ve got to make every pass a difficult one for him and make sure that the Bulls can’t score. If they don’t, the Wizards have a great shot at winning the series.

Chicago Bulls

Record: 48-34

Off. Efficiency: 99.7

Def. Efficiency: 97.8

The Chicago Bulls, as I said previously, aren’t a great scoring team,  but they defend the hell out of the ball. Since the turn of the year, they’ve had the best defense in the league. Overall, their defense is the second best in the league. It will be no easy task for the Wizards to score on the Bulls even if they can stop them offensively.

With great defense in the playoffs, you’ll have a great chance to win any series and that goes for the Bulls here. The Wizards’ offense is one of the more predictable ones in the league. They don’t really make sure to spread you out and make you pay with their shooters. They only take 20.8 threes per game despite shooting a whopping 38% from three. The Bulls are going to have a chance to pack the paint against the Wizards and prevent them from getting anything inside.

Their best option here will be to lure the Wizards into taking midrange jump shots. That is a common thing for Washington, as they take some of the worst shots in the league. More of their shots come from the midrange area than anywhere else on the floor.

Wiz shotchart

The Wizards don’t take shots from the most efficient areas on the floor. The three point line is something that they don’t really worry about getting to with their offensive structure. Bradley Beal gets a lot of dribble handoffs that will turn into midrange attempts by the time they’re finished and they don’t really force the issue when John Wall needs to get to the rim.

The Wizards weren’t a team that got to the foul line a lot during the regular season because of their shot selection. When they did, they weren’t very good. But the Wizards do have  a secret weapon the Bulls need to worry about–the corner three. John Wall is the best at generating looks from corner threes and the Wizards are great at hitting them.

The Bulls don’t give that look up easily, though. So it’ll be tough to generate unless Wall is pinpoint with his skip passing–which he can be. I’m sure the Bulls won’t easily collapse on defense, so it’ll be an interesting battle between these two to see who breaks first.

*****

This is going to be a great, hard-fought series between two very good defensive teams. Whoever generates offense the easiest will win the series. Whoever doesn’t will be sitting at home watching the conference semis. This will be one to enjoy though. John Wall and Joakim Noah going head to head is something any NBA fan should enjoy.

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