The Washington Wizards were the beneficiaries of the tanking job by the Brooklyn Nets at the end of the regular season as the Wizards moved up to the No. 5 seed in the East on the final night of the season. Their reward: the pesky Bulls, whom Washington beat two out of three times this year. However, Chicago is a 5-point favorite at WagerWeb for Sunday’s Game 1.
The Wizards were caught between playing the Bulls and the Heat in Round 1. They chose wisely in jumping up to the No. 5 seed. There are some interesting matchups going on here: John Wall vs. D.J. Augustin and Nene vs. Carlos Boozer. The Bulls can’t shoot, the Wizards are inconsistent all over. They haven’t won a playoff series since beating the Bulls in the first round in 2005.
Chicago allows 91.8 points per game, which ranks best in the NBA. The defensive-minded Bulls also rank second in opponents’ field-goal percentage, allowing a clip of just 43 percent. The Bulls score 93.7 points game, which ranks last in the NBA. Chicago shoots a league-worst 43.2 percent from the field. The Bulls, however, have eclipsed the 100-point mark in six of their last 10 games. Chicago allowed 92 points on average to the Wizards in their three meetings. The number is well below Washington’s season average of 100.4 but just 0.3 points less than the 92.3 points that Chicago averaged in those games.
The Bulls went 23-2 this season when scoring at least 100 points, something they did six times in their last 10 games. Augustin arrived in Chicago in December and surprisingly sparked the offense after being waived by Toronto. Power forward Taj Gibson has also expanded his game while taking more minutes from Boozer, and Joakim Noah averaged career highs in points (12.6), rebounds (11.3) and assists (5.4).
The Wizards fulfilled their goal of ending a five-year playoff drought, putting Wall, the first pick in 2010, in the postseason for the first time. The front office has eyed the playoffs all season, making calculated moves to fortify the roster for a potential clash with a team like the Bulls. The Wizards traded for Marcin Gortat during the preseason, adding a veteran center capable of making an impact on both ends. They traded for Andre Miller at the deadline, getting the backup point guard they desperately needed, and signed veterans such as forwards Al Harrington and Drew Gooden to give them a splash of experience and grit.
Gortat and Nene have given the Bulls trouble in the past, and it’s worth noting the one game the Bulls beat the Wizards in this season was when Nene didn’t play because of an injury. In order to win this series, the Bulls must find a way to control the battle between the big men. It will be up to Noah and Gibson to hold down the fort. In going 2-1 against the Bulls this season, Wall averaged 20 points (shooting 50 percent from the field) and eight assists.
WagerWeb trends: Wizards are 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings in Chicago. Under is 21-5 in the last 26 meetings. Wizards are 6-2 ATS in the last 8 meetings. Under is 5-2 in the last 7 meetings in Chicago. Underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings. Road team is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings.