Well this is bittersweet.
The Washington Wizards close the 2013 season tonight with a game against the Bulls in Chicago. After a tumultuous season that saw friends become enemies and enemies become friends, the Wizards head into tonight's game with a team that's almost the complete opposite of the one that struggled through the first two months of the season.
The Wizards began the season with a roster full of finishers and no one to set them up. Now, with Nene, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and Bradley Beal out for the year, the offense should be all Wall, all the time tonight. The scary thing is that, despite Chicago's legendary Tom Thibodeau-orechestrated defense, Washington's offense might run better than it did at the beginning of the year. Wall's emergence as a capable scorer has changed everything about how teams have to prepare for Washington, and tonight we'll get a chance to see if his physical gifts and automatic elbow jumper are enough to overcome a system notorious for stymieing ball-dominant players.
Where and when? The game is at 8 p.m. in Chicago.
Are they good? Yes. Chicago is 44-37 on the year with the point differential of 41-41 team. They've made up for the absence of Derrick Rose and their once-great bench mob by running more of their offense than ever before through Carlos Boozer while letting Nate Robinson run wild with the ball when the offense gets stagnant.
Why should I care? It's the last Wizards game of the season.
Who's out? Chicago is looking to clinch the fifth seed in the East, so they'll be going all out tonight, with no one other than Rose unavailable. Washington will be missing Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Nene, Bradley Beal and Emeka Okafor.
What are they good at? Defense and offensive rebounding. Chicago's defensive rating is seventh in the NBA, they're fourth in the NBA in effective field goal percentage allowed and they manage to pull down more offensive rebounds than only four other teams. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng all have had a lot to do with all of this, with additional contributions from Boozer and Nazr Mohhamed on the glass.
What are they bad at? As tends to happen when you lose an MVP-caliber player like Rose for the year, Chicago's offense is nowhere near as effective as it was last year, ranking only 23rd in the NBA in efficiency. Boozer and Noah can pass, Deng can create a shot from time to time, and Robinson's still good in a ball-dominating way, but all of these guys are overmatched when asked to be primary offensive options. Much like Washington before Wall returned, Chicago has a lot of guys who can finish plays but no one who can set them up.
Where else can I read about the Bulls? Check out Blog A Bull.
What are your thoughts on and predictions for tonight's game? Sound off in the comments and vote in our poll!