The Washington Wizards are headed into the playoffs with the team healthy and firing on all cylinders. In the last game of the regular season, Washington took a big step forward and clinched the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference in a win over the Boston Celtics. The Wizards are now set to face the the fourth seed Chicago Bulls in their first-round matchup.
Washington vs. Chicago will be one of the most interesting and thrilling first-round matchups. They each have completely different styles, are both competitive and have the ability to put up a great fight. Though Chicago is good, this matchup is in Washington’s favor.
Washington’s ability to score the ball will give them an advantage throughout this series. This season, John Wall and Bradley Beal have outplayed the top eight opposing backcourts in the East. Together, they averaged averaged 42.4 points, 14.8 assists, 11.6 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game. The Wizards’ backcourt has already outplayed Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler in two out of their three regular season matchups, resulting in the Wizards winning the regular season series 2-1.
Multiple times this season, Wall and Beal also outplayed the backcourts of the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets. Wall is an unbelievable athlete who is having the best year of his career, and no other point guard in the East can match up with him. If Beal continues doing his job of complimenting Wall by remaining consistent offensively and defensively, the Wizards will be able to take the series against the Bulls.
The most important matchup of this series will be between Chicago’s Joakim Noah and Washington’s Marcin Gortat. Noah is having the best season of his career and his evolution into an all-around threat has earned him MVP talk. He is currently averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. To win this series, Washington will need to shut down Noah.
The Wizards have the perfect competitor to match Noah. This season, Gortat has been one of Washington’s biggest supporting pieces. He has had 37 double-doubles this season and averages 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. The Wall and Gortat pick-and-roll has grown into something special for Washington. His ability to move around and contribute offensively will be huge in this matchup, not to mention his defense has been outstanding.
Gortat recently handled Roy Hibbert in Washington’s win over the Indiana Pacers, holding Hibbert to only eight points and two rebounds. Don’t be surprised to see Gortat give Noah a lot of problems.
Nene Hilario‘s return has added depth to Washington’s already strong and consistent bench. Chicago’s rotational players will have a hard time matching up. Andre Miller, Al Harrington and Drew Gooden are very important veteran players whose leadership will go a long way.
Washington and Chicago playing against each other will be a hard-fought matchup. Wall and company were fortunate to grab the fifth seed in the East, and this is a great matchup for the Wizards. Defense will play a big role in this series, but Washington’s advantages will surely get them past the Bulls.