The Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards are set to meet in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. It marks the sixth straight year that the Bulls have reached the postseason. The Wizards are making their first playoff appearance since 2008, and they have not won a series in nine years.
Chicago had one of the most surprising seasons of any NBA team. After Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending injury in the first month, and the team traded Luol Deng in January, it looked like the organization had given up on the season. However, head coach Tom Thibodeau led his squad to 48 wins and the No.4 seed in the East.
Washington is one of the most improved teams from a year ago. The Wizards had a 14-win improvement from last season, going 44-38, which was good enough for the No.5 seed. The franchise hadn’t had a winning record in six seasons.
The Bulls may have had the better regular-season record, but the Wizards had more success when the two teams met in 2013-2014. Washington was victorious in two of their three head-to-head matchups. Chicago, though, did win the most recent matchup, defeating the Wizards by 18 points on April 5.
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Joakim Noah: Without Rose or Deng, Noah has emerged as Chicago’s top player. His performance this season, especially down the stretch, could earn him votes behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James for MVP. Without an elite point guard, much of the Bulls’ offense has run through Noah. Since the All-Star break, he’s averaging 13.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and seven assists per game.
John Wall: In his fourth season, Wall is finally becoming the player that he was projected to be, as the No.1 pick in the draft. He posted career highs with 19.3 points, 8.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. The point guard has been just as good, if not better, against the Bulls, averaging 20.7 points on 50 percent field-goal shooting.
Entering the playoffs, no team is playing better defense than Chicago. They rank second in the league, allowing 97.9 points per 100 possessions. Noah, the possible Defensive Player of the Year, along with Sixth Man of the Year candidate Taj Gibson, will make it difficult for the Wizards to put points on the board.
If Washington is able to have success on the offensive end, it will be because of their backcourt. John Wall and Bradley Beal make up one of the best backcourt tandems in the league. Averaging 17.1 points per game this season, Beal has raised his game in April, shooting close to 53 percent from the field and adding 19.1 points per contest.
Game 1: Sunday, April 20 at Chicago, 7 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 2: Tuesday, April 22 at Chicago, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 3: Friday, April 25 at Washington, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, April 27 at Washington, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 5: Tuesday, April 29 at Chicago, TBD*
Game 6: Thursday, May 1 at Washington, TBD*
Game 7: Saturday, May 3 at Chicago, TBD*
Chicago -240, Washington+170 [Bet Online]
Chicago in Six