Matchup: (5) Washington Wizards vs Chicago Bulls (4)
Regular Season Series: Wiz won 2-1
Key Matchup: John Wall vs Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin. Wall is currently in the midst of his best season of his career (averaging 19.3 points and 8.8 assists) and he’s salivating at the matchup against Hinrich and Augustin — neither scream defensive stopper. Hinrich is clearly the Bulls best defensive option for Wall, however, I’m not sure if Hinrich is still up for such an assignment this late in his career. He’s only averaging 29 minutes per game this season, and as we all know, Wall is expected to be on the court for much longer than that. If the Bulls can limit Wall — or even simply throw him off his game — they’ll have a much easier time against Washington.
The Skinny: The Bulls have surprisingly played much better this season without Derrick Rose. Not saying they wouldn’t be better if he was healthy, but Chicago (along with Brooklyn) have the best record in the Eastern Conference since the All-Star break. That says all you need to know about how well the Bulls are playing right now. The Wizards, on the other hand, may be a little over their heads in this series. This is, by far, the toughest matchup for any team in the East, you’d think. The Bulls are going to grind, grind and grind. They’re going to beat you up and hope that your will slowly dies. It’s a tough task for any team in this year’s playoffs — and even more so for one that’s going to be experiencing their first taste of the postseason since 2008.
Washington will win if: John Wall and his Wizards can dictate tempo and pace. The Wizards need to speed things up to keep Chicago out of their halfcourt defense. If they can do that, they’ll have a shot. Still, nothing is going to be easy against a Tom Thibodeau coached defense.
Chicago will win if: They can grind and keep the pace to their liking. The Bulls aren’t going to outscore anyone in the playoffs, but they can sure out-will them. Chicago just defends you to no end, and slowly jabs at your body until you put your guard down. Then, they hit you with an uppercut.
Prediction: Chicago in seven.