Open thread: Regular season game 24

The essentials:
Bulls (8-14) at Wizards (13-10)
7 p.m.
Verizon Center

Last year:
December 2: Bulls 112, Wizards 94.
January 10: Wizards 113, Bulls 103.
February 22: Bulls 105, Wizards 90.
April 15: Bulls 101, Wizards 60.

Notable Bulls numbers this season
24th in expected winning percentage (.325).
12th in pace factor (91.3 possessions per game).
30th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (99.7).
8th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (105).

Key links
Thank You Isiah.
Only the Bulls.
Post: Nick Young to start/Wiz can't stop assistant coaches.
SVP Style with more on Practice-gate.
Ben Gordon is not happy with Gilbert Arenas.
BaB: Face Full of Blame-Pie.
Sam Smith: Arenas shares opinion as Wizards share the ball.
Cobra Brigade blog preview.
Bull Riding blog preview.
Competition Discussion: Chicago.

Starting lineups:
PG: Kirk Hinrich
SG: Ben Gordon
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Joe Smith
C: Ben Wallace

PG: Nick Young
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's lines:
Bulls at Wizards: Wizards by 4.5.
Over/Under on Big 2 scoring: 43 points.

My apologies for not doing much blogging since the weekend.  Finals are over, so for the next three weeks, this place is going to be crazy active.  Thanks to Jake again for stepping in.

This is a game we should win.  Not only is Chicago a mess, but they're on the second game of a back-to-back after losing to the Lakers by 12 at home last night.  They're a team with no direction, which is shocking considering where people were putting them in the East.  (Full disclosure: I had them first).  

So what's happened?  

For one, the oft-used "jump shooting team" criticism isn't really accurate.  Yes, they aren't good at jumpers, as indicated by that putrid offensive efficiency.  But they're shooting just as many jumpers as most teams, so it's not exactly a structural problem like so many seem to indicate.  Instead, the problem is that the Bulls can't make a damn layup if their life depended on it.  Jumpers come and go, but if you can't hit layups, that's going to dog you for a while.

The other problem is Scott Skiles' sub patterns, which should make a lot of people here smile.  Skiles' problems with Tyrus Thomas are well-documented, but the other building block of their frontcourt, Joakim Noah, didn't even play yesterday, yielding instead to Aaron Gray.  Matt had an epic rant on the subject yesterday, but suffice to say, Skiles has lost that team.

The key tonight will be to defend the perimeter.  In the past, Chicago would take advantage of our lack of concentration defensively and create wide open looks for their shooters.  This isn't a team with a dynamic slasher in the lane, so we can't fall into our old habit of clogging the middle at the expense of shooters.  As indicated above, this isn't exactly a juggernaut scoring team inside.

This is an open game thread, so keep the MJ jokes coming.


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