Apr 20, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) reacts to being called for a foul during the second half of game one of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Washington Wizards at the United Center. Washington won 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls: 3 Reasons Why They Are Down 0-2 To The Washington Wizards


Apr 20, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) shoots over Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) during the second half of game one of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the United Center. Washington won 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Once it was determined that the Chicago Bulls would be hosting the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs, it was supposed to be an ideal matchup for this ball club.

However, a funny thing happened to the Bulls in the first two games of these playoffs.

The Wizards came into the United Center and walked out with a 102-93 victory in Game 1 followed by a 101-99 overtime victory in Game 2—their fourth win in five meetings against the Bulls this season.

Let’s take a quick look at how Chicago dropped two consecutive games at home to start this series.

 

Bulls’ defense must find a way to contain Nene

Apr 20, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Wizards forward Nene Hilario (42) scores over Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) during the first quarter of game one of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

After missing 21 games due to a sprained knee, Nene made his first start in eight weeks for the Wizards in Game 1.

But the time off was hardly noticeable based on his performance.

He pounded the Bulls’ interior defense, scoring 24 points to go along with eight rebounds.

While Joakim Noah limited Nene to 11 points through the first four quarters of Game 2, the Wizards forward chipped in with six points in the overtime session, finishing the game with 17 points and seven rebounds.

So through the first two games, Nene is averaging 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest, while shooting an efficient 19-for-30 from the field (63 percent).

Most importantly, he is getting his shots from wherever he wants against the league’s top-ranked scoring defense.

Simply put, Noah and the Bulls must find a way to make Nene earn his points as the series shifts to Washington

And if they don’t, the outcome will be similar to what we’ve seen in the first two games.

 

Offense unable to score in crunch time

Apr 22, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard D.J. Augustin (14) dribbles the ball against Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) during the second half in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at United Center. Washington Wizards defeats the Chicago Bulls 101-99 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

There is a reason why the Bulls are ranked last in the league in points per contest, and that reason is because they go through stretches where they have a difficult time scoring.

For example, in Game 1, Chicago began the second half with a 10-3 spurt—giving them a 64-51 lead in the third quarter.

However, Washington closed the period with a 21-11 run to cut the deficit to 75-72 heading into the fourth quarter.

Then, with an 87-84 lead with six minutes left to play, Chicago’s offense produced just six points the rest of the way.

The Wizards outscored the Bulls 18-6 during that stretch to seal the victory.

It should also be noted that Chicago missed 11 of 18 shots and was outrebounded 13-6.

And this dubious trend continued in Game 2.

The Bulls led 87-77 with seven minutes left to play, and they seemed poised to even the series at 1-1.

But once again, the offense stalled, producing only four points the rest of the period, allowing the Wizards to send the game into overtime.

Yes, some will say if Kirk Hinrich converts a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds left in overtime, the game would have gone into a second extra session.

However, the Bulls did not lose this game because of the missed free throws.

They lost this game because of their inability to produce baskets when the game was on the line.

No matter how well this team scraps and plays defense, they haven’t been able to score late in the fourth quarter of both games.

That being said, it should surprise no one they are down 0-2.

 

Wizards winning “adjustments” game

Apr 20, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman during the second half of game one of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Washington won 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Thibodeau has done a phenomenal job in guiding his team to 48 wins and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

That statement is supported by the fact that he finished third in Coach of the Year voting

But his counterpart, Randy Wittman, is making all the right moves at just the right moments.

For instance, In Game 1, Washington stepped up its defensive intensity in the fourth quarter with increased ball pressure and denying the passing lanes.

As a result, the Wizards turned a 13-point deficit into a nine-point victory.

Wittman made another key late-game adjustment in Game 2 when he switched Trevor Ariza over to defend D.J. Augustin (25 points, seven assists) with eight minutes left in regulation.

After that, Augustin became a non-factor, and the Bulls offense struggled, producing just four baskets over the final 12 minutes of the game, including overtime.

With teams having ample time to prepare for each another in the postseason, one of the keys to winning a series is how each club adjusts to its opponent.

So far, the Wizards have made all the right adjustments, while the Bulls have failed to come up with a counter punch.

And if the Bulls do not find a way to make come up with a few adjustments of their own, the Wizards will sweep this series—something very few thought was possible before the series began.

 

James Tillman is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com and a sports contributor for Football Nation and Sports Kings/Pass The Pill. James is also a former Featured Sports Contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JTILLMAN9693.

Tags: Chicago Bulls

  • Valerie Flemings

    Hi James, you always make good points and offer great strategies for the Bulls to up their game. However, It seems that the Bulls get into the playoffs, they always choke,
    Maybe, they get nervous, maybe, it’s too much pressure, but it really is a sad situation for the thousands of fan that support them. The Bulls need to win a Championship, period. Or at least give their fans something! This is pitiful! What can the bulls do to turn it around?

    • James Tillman

      Thanks for the response Valerie. In all fairness, the last two postseasons, they have been without their star player in Derrick Rose and Luol Deng was dealt to the Cavaliers. Those are two huge factors. So far, the main culprit of this postseason has been the inability of to produce key baskets when they’ve had the Wizards down. We know they can play defense, but it’s the team with the most points that wins the game. If they find a way to adjust to what the Wizards are throwing at them defensively, they should be okay. Also, Bulls fans should know that these two teams met in the 2005 playoffs. The Bulls won the first two games of that series and dropped the next four so all hope is not lost just yet…..

      • Valerie Flemings

        Thanks For the insight James. I love the Bulls but sometimes, I just get frustrated. I appreciate your sports knowledge.

        • James Tillman

          Anytime Valerie. They are frustrating to watch simply because everyone wonders how far this team could go if “everyone” was healthy. Unfortunately, we will not know the answer to that question for a while.

      • Brandy Tillman

        James, I think the Bulls may need to replace Derrick Rose. I think he may be done for.

        • James Tillman

          That probably will not happen because they fully expect Rose to be back at 100 percent next season and return to MVP form at some point. Besides, even they were entertaining the thought of trading for him, not many teams would be willing to bite because of the fact that he has played in just 50 games over the past three seasons.

        • Leroy Boyd

          Brandy
          Dont you think you should wait and see before throwing bricks at Rose at 25 throwing him away is not wise

  • Michael Dunlap

    Crazy to think that Randy Wittman could be outcoaching the almighty Tom Thibodeau, but he is. Good call there, James. Although as a side note — Thibs doesn’t have the bodies that Wittman does right now.

    • James Tillman

      Appreciate the response Mr. Dunlap. I agree with your statement about Thibodeau not having as many bodies as Thibodeau. However, maybe he should expand his rotation a little. We can’t expect Butler and Noah to play 46 and 53 minutes each night and still be effective on both ends of the floor. Hoping to see a different outcome in the next two games.

  • Leroy Boyd

    Thibs as long as he has been the Bulls coach adjustments have not been part of coaching. To me his adjustments would be the first.

    • James Tillman

      Thanks for the response Leroy. Adjustments are key in playoff series, and unless we start making some on our end, the Bulls will be heading home in the first round for the second time in three seasons.

      • Leroy Boyd

        James
        I would be shocked if Thibs makes adjustments if he did it would be the first time since becomingbthe Bulls head coach. I believe this is the one of the major issued that Paxton has with him besides minutes and not using late season players acquired by the Bulls. Maybe we have over rated Thibs as a head coach maybe he is just a great defensive assistant and he has no concept about offensive adjustments. He had to get the ball out of Nene hands, he cant let DJ guard Miller and he most certain need to use the proven scorers when his players on the floor can’t find the basketball.

  • Tyrone Bowman

    Dare I say the Wizards have more talent than the Bulls. Beal might be more talented than anyone Chicago (Derrick Rose excluded obviously) can play.

    • James Tillman

      Appreciate the response. Yea, they are definitely a talented bunch. And as long as both Wall and Beal continue to get better, they will be a playoff team for many years to come.