The Chicago Bulls (19-35) will be in Washington tonight to take on the Wizards (18-33). The Bulls defeated the Wizards by one point in overtime in Washington on December 18th, in one of the more frustrating losses of the season. The Wizards also fell short against the Bulls in Chicago on January 15th. The Wizards’ nine-point loss was also one of the more frustrating losses of the season. Basically, the Chicago Bulls frustrate the Washington Wizards. And by association, Wizards fans.
The Wizards are 5-5 in their last ten games and are currently in 9th place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are 3.5 games back of the Orlando Magic for 8th and 5.5 back of the Brooklyn Nets for 7th. The Bulls, who are 3-7 in their last ten and losers of five straight, are half of a game behind the Wizards.
If Washington has any actual intention of making a playoff-push, this type of game is a must-win. Losing the season series against one of your closest competitors typically does not bode well for postseason prospects.
Zach LaVine against Bradley Beal is the obvious choice here. Both are big names that were snubbed from the All-Star Game and there is a very real chance each guy scores greater than 40 points.
The Bulls are pretty limited due to injury so LaVine will have to carry much of the scoring load for them to have a chance. Bradley Beal is never one to back down from a “mano a mano” challenge. And neither of them play all that much defense (at least not consistently) so this has the recipe to be a real barn-burner! (Do people still say “barn-burner” anymore?)
In their last game, a seven-point loss to the 76ers, LaVine had 32 points but also 9 turnovers. They may not have the personnel to stop LaVine one-on-one but the Wizards need to hope he continues to try to force the issue. Tomas Satoransky and Coby White are the only other Bulls (who are projected to play tonight) that average more than ten points per game (10.1 and 11.1, respectively).
What else to watch for
- The starting lineup for the Bull in their last game was LaVine, Satoransky, Chandler Hutchinson, Thaddeus Young, and Luke Kornet. Not exactly a murderer’s row.
- Kornet had 25 points and 2 rebounds and hit 4-of-8 three-pointers in his last game where he was matched up with Joel Embiid. Kornet is a floor-spacer and the type of player who has typically spelled trouble for bigger defenders like Ian Mahinmi. Expect to see Washington go small a good amount of the night tonight.
- The reserves for Chicago are Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Cristiano Felicio, and Shaquille Harrison.
- Coby White is not shy about shooting and can get really hot from time to time. It will be interesting to see if Napier can prevent that from happening.
Thomas Bryant (foot) and John Wall (Achilles) are out.
Denzel Valentine (hamstring) is questionable. Lauri Markkanen (groin), Otto Porter (foot), Kris Dunn (knee), Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle), Max Strus (knee) are all out.
Spread: Washington -2.5
Total points: O/U 230
ML: Washington -140, Chicago +130
The Wizards will get on the board in the season series and beat the depleted Bulls. If they can’t win this one then I’m not sure they deserve to make the playoffs, honestly. I understand that sometimes wounded teams are like wounded animals and can overcome their lack of available personnel. But if Bradley Beal and company actually care about winning as much as they proclaim, this should be a statement game from them.