As it was a foregone conclusion for a large chunk of the season, Miami and Indiana was a rubber stamp for the conference finals.
While Chicago might not win the NBA title, how many teams could overcome losing their best player for a second straight season (Derrick Rose, remember him), finding a way to get past a five-week stretch in Nov. to Dec. of 3-13 SU, trading away their second-best player to a division opponent (Luol Deng) and still managing to have the third-best record in their conference? Nobody.
The Gang that Cannot Shoot Straight
With all the limitations placed on the Bulls, defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeau still manufactured 48 W’s out of what appears to be completely flawed roster.
Chicago by design takes the fewest shots in the NBA and not be design they have the worst field percentage in the league at 43.2 percent. Off the top this sounds like you should be hanging with Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Utah and not having betting odds for the postseason.
But coach Tibs is not a quitter and he found a way for the Bulls to close 10-3 (9-4 ATS) and become part of the discussion about making it to the conference finals with their quirky style of play.
Despite not having their two best scoring options, Chicago is not easy to guard because they have seven players averaging between 14.9 to 9.1 points a game. (Though accuracy is a conundrum) Led by point guard D.J. Augustin, the Bulls move the ball expertly to find the best look and chuck it up.
The whole Chicago puzzle falls apart without eccentric center Joakim Noah. If there is a player that shares their coach’s intensity, it is Noah and his presence on defense is why this is arguably the best defensive team in the postseason.
What those setting the NBA odds appreciate about the former Florida Gator is what he does for the offense, setting screens to help shooters, running to the rim for dunks and believe it or not, leading his team in assists (5.4).
In Chi-Town, basketball is more than just about making baskets.
In Washington, Youth Served, but Blended with Experience
The Wizards front office was convinced this season was going to end a five-year playoff drought. In ensure this occurrence, they added veteran Marcin Gortat before the season, to have a centerthat could make contributions on both sides of the floor. When the postseason became a real possibility, they added experienced depth in the back and front courts with players like Andre Miller who understand the difference about playing when the regular season ends.
Head coach Randy Wittman always demanded more and he finally got his backcourt youngsters John Wall and Bradley Beal to figure out hard work pays off and the Wizards worked enough magic to climb all the way to fifth in the East and enter with a four-game winning streak. NBA basketball handicappers are attuned to Washington being 22-19 and 26-15 ATS on the road as the series commences.
Why Chicago Wins
Sportsbooks established Da Bulls as -205 series favorites. Chicago lost both January meetings before they got their act together and when they played in D.C. on Apr. 5; the Bulls brought the hammer and lambasted the Wizards by 18 as two–point underdogs.
Chicago averaged 23 three-point shots against Washington (second most versus any other foe) and converted nine. This was not by accident as they found ball movement and proper screening left Wizards defenders out of rotations. Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler will be called upon to do the damage.
The Bulls defense is on top of their offensive counterparts and what they will look to do is chase Washington off the three-point line, yet keep them out of the lane and make the Wizards a mid-range jump shooting team, something Chicago excels at.
Why Washington wins
Coach Wittman knows shot selection and intelligence will be tantamount since the number of possessions against Chicago will be limited. In both victories, the Wizards were disciplined and shot over 50 percent, which is how to beat the Bulls.
This means Wall has to pick his spots to turn on the jets and either get to the rim or find the open 3-ball shooter when he penetrates.
Washington is adequate defensively, thus, instead of trying to do too much. they just need to guard, fight through screens and not let Chicago pick up cheap points at the free throw line.
Lastly, with Noah and Taj Gibson, the Bulls are a clever rebounding team, Nene, Gortat and others have to box-out to limit second chance points for Chicago.
It’s an old cliché, but spring time in the NBA generally means experience, defense and homecourt advantage, which is why with my NBA picks I’ll put my cash on Chicago.
NBA Basketball Series Free Pick – Chicago in seven