Bulls-Wizards Preview

The Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards have already secured playoff berths.

They could find themselves opposing each other in the opening round.

The Bulls seek a fifth straight victory while trying to avoid being swept by the Wizards in the season series Saturday night in the nation’s capital.

Chicago (44-32) is tied with Atlantic Division-leading Toronto for third in the Eastern Conference heading into the final six games of the regular season.

Washington (40-36) is sixth and 1 1-2 games behind fifth-place Brooklyn, which trails the Bulls and Raptors by 2 1-2.

The Bulls may prefer to avoid the Wizards in the postseason since they’ve dropped four of the past five meetings, including all three in Washington while averaging 84.0 points.

They lost 96-93 there Jan. 17 in the most recent visit, as Washington placed six players in double figures and shot 50.6 percent from the field.

Chicago, though, has put together a tremendous defensive stretch to win six of seven games, limiting opponents to 87.6 points and 41.5 percent shooting.

The Bulls are also flexing their muscles offensively during a four-game winning streak, scoring 102.0 points per game with seven players averaging in double digits.

That was the case again Friday, when seven Bulls had at least 11 points in a 102-90 win over league-worst Milwaukee. Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler led the way with 17 points apiece.

"I love the balance of the team," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We had seven guys in double figures again. The shot distribution was pretty even, and that’s important for us.

"I like the balance of our team. Each night it could be someone different."

Reserve guard D.J. Augustin’s 18.5 scoring average leads Chicago over the past four games, and is almost six points higher than his season average. He had 16 points, while Hinrich added a team-high 18 in the latest meeting with the Wizards.

Washington is also playing well, winning four of five after Bradley Beal’s jumper with 6.9 seconds left put the Wizards up for good in a 90-89 win at New York on Friday.

"It’s pretty cool, I guess," Beal said of silencing the crowd at Madison Square Garden with his clutch shot. "For them to go silent, that’s kind of, ‘Wow.’"

Beal, who finished with 28 points against the Knicks, is averaging 22.3 over the past three games. However, the second-year guard is averaging just 10.6 points and shooting 37.9 percent from the floor in five meetings with the Bulls.

John Wall had 23 points and 11 assists in the January win over Chicago, and he’s averaging that many points over the past four meetings.

One more win for the Wizards will assure them of at least a .500 record on the season for the first time since 2007-08, the last time they qualified for the playoffs.