Mar 16, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) looks to pass against Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
With the annual Circus Trip looming for the Chicago Bulls in the next couple weeks, they’ll play host to the Washington Wizards on Saturday night in Chicago.
It’s been a long time since the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards met in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
That series — won by the Wizards in five games — was a disappointing end to a rather fun season of Bulls basketball, despite the array of injuries on the roster.
However, not many teams this season have been as disappointing as the Washington Wizards have been.
Here’s the thing about the Wizards: Their two wins — Boston and Atlanta — are quality victories. The problem is that they’ve only won two of their first eight games this season and star point guard John Wall has been ejected from two of those games, along with coming off knee surgeries this past summer.
On Saturday night, the Bulls will host the Wizards for the first of four meetings throughout the 2016-17 season. After Saturday’s game, the Bulls will venture out onto the road for six straight games as a part of their annual “Circus Trip” at the end of every November.
Let’s take a look at what to watch for on Saturday night, the projected starting lineups, and a prediction of Saturday’s result.
Nov 10, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) dribbles the ball as Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) applies pressure during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Bulls-Wizards: What to Watch for
If the Bulls can hit outside shots, they can jump on Washington early and often
A key reason why the Bulls were able to steal a game in Dwyane Wade‘s homecoming to Miami on Thursday night was because of their ability to get production from their “others”, specifically Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Each player hit a pair of 3-pointers on Thursday and combined for 23 points off the bench in the 98-95 win. Only three teams shoot the 3-ball worse than Washington does (31 percent), so if McDermott and Mirotic can contribute, the Bulls can jump on the Wizards early.
John Wall can be a nightmare, but he’s not playing, so now what defensively?
The Wizards have some versatile forwards in Otto Porter, Jr., who had the best game of his career earlier this week against the Celtics with 34 points, and Markieff Morris. Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg would’ve probably look to move Jimmy Butler — his best wing defender — around on defense, specifically putting him on lightning-quick point guard John Wall. Butler could likely see minutes guarding an array of guys now that Wall has already been ruled out of the game. Those guys will likely include Porter, Morris and Kelly Oubre, Jr. off the bench
The Bulls will need a better offensive gameplan against the Wizards
No disrespect to Robin Lopez, who has been a fine acquisition for the Bulls in the middle so far this season, but there should be zero games where he shoots 20 times. The Bulls offense was an utter mess against the Heat on Thursday night. Credit is due to Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra for maintaining one of the league’s toughest defenses over the years, but the Bulls need to run their offense through their core. That means not waiting until the fourth quarter for Jimmy Butler to swoop in and save the day like Batman at an abandoned factory.
Nov 10, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (center) greets guard Isaiah Canaan (right) prior to their game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Projected starting lineups for Bulls-Wizards
Washington Wizards (2-6)
Trey Burke will likely get the start for the resting John Wall, Marcus Thornton will likely be in again for the injured Bradley Beal (hamstring), Otto Porter, Jr., Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat in the middle.
Chicago Bulls (5-4)
Nothing has changed or been announced on the Bulls’ front in terms of their starters. Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez will be their starting five on Saturday night.
If you were looking at this game on paper with the Wall/Beal duo both likely out on Saturday, you’d think the Bulls would be in line for another blowout win.
Although they’ve shown the ability to blow teams out of the water in the early going this season, the Wizards have been a thorn in their side in recent years, holding a 6-4 regular season edge over the Bulls (along with the 4-1 playoff win in 2014).
In the first game Wall missed due to rest, against the Magic, Washington really slowed down the tempo to compensate for the offensive firepower they were missing. They had just three fastbreak points and scored 86 points overall.
If you remember this past Sunday, you probably won’t forget the 32-point beatdown the Bulls put on the woeful Orlando Magic. The Bulls are a better team than the Magic, and the Wizards could only score 86 points without John Wall.
The key word will be “focus” for the Bulls on Saturday night. If they lock in and realize they have quite the opportunity without one of the league’s best backcourt duos (when they’re healthy) on the floor, they could cruise to another big win.
In those big victories for the Bulls, they looked to run in the open floor consistently, they pounded the glass and they drilled outside jumpers.
If that happens on Saturday, the Bulls should be 6-4 without much problem.
Bulls control the pace and the game all night long and win their sixth game of the season, 108-92.
(Follow our friends at Wiz of Awes for all things Wizards on Saturday night.)