Chicago Bulls Shouldn't Take Washington Wizards Lightly

By Wally Jacobs
Getty Images
Getty Images

Nearly 10 years ago during the 2004-05 NBA season, the fourth seed Chicago Bulls took on the fifth seed Washington Wizards. With young players such as Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni and Luol Deng, the Bulls were able to take a commanding 2-0 series lead against Gilbert Arenas‘ Wizards. However, it didn’t take long for Washington to gain control of the series and win the next four games.

Fast forward nine years later, and it is the exact same matchup. The Bulls are once again the fourth seed that is facing the fifth seed Wizards. Sure, Arenas and Antawn Jamison do not play for the Wizards anymore, and Hinrich is no longer a spring chicken for the Bulls. Adrian Griffin, a backup small forward for Chicago in 2005, now serves as an assistant under Tom Thibodeau. So, it is safe to say that both of these teams have changed drastically since then.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of lessons the current Bulls can learn from the team that lost four straight games to the Wizards. First, they need to respect their opponent. Just because the Wizards are less experienced and younger than the Bulls doesn’t mean they don’t still have a lot of firepower on the offensive end. John Wall, only 23 years old, is one of the quickest players in the league and will no doubt give the Bulls fits on the defensive end.

The second area of concern for the Bulls is staying focused. This one goes hand-in-hand with respecting their opponent. The Bulls have a tendency to play down to their competition. Instead of putting away teams early, Chicago loses focus and can succumb to any team. Losses to the lowly Milwaukee Bucks and the Sacramento Kings this season are proof of that.

Finally, the Bulls simply need to stay healthy. One injury to anyone on the Bulls’ starting lineup would be devastating. The 2004-05 Bulls had injuries to then-rookie Deng and starting center Eddy Curry before the series began. Last year’s Bulls had various injuries throughout the first two rounds. Hinrich was basically lost after Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets.

And although the Bulls have adequate backups in D.J. Augustin and Jimmer Fredette at point guard, Hinrich’s defense and ability to run the offense is extremely valuable.

The 2013-14 Bulls still have a lot of basketball left in them. However, now that the playoffs are finally here, their season could end very quickly. Chicago has to avoid the same traps that the 2004-05 Bulls fell victim to when they faced the Wizards.

Wally Jacobs is a Chicago Bulls writer for Follow him on Twitter @WJac1.

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