After defeating the Boston Celtics and watching the Nets get blown out by the Cavaliers, Washington has leaped to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings and punched their ticket to face the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
Game 1 is scheduled for Sunday at 7 p.m. on TNT. Here is the schedule as we know it.
GAME 1: Sunday April 20, 7 p.m., TNT
GAME 2: Tuesday, April 22, 9:30 p.m., TNT
GAME 3 (in D.C.): Friday, April 25, 8 p.m., ESPN
GAME 4 (in D.C.): Sunday, April 27, 1 p.m., ABC
GAMES 5-7: TBD
The Wizards went 2-1 against the Bulls this season. Their lone defeat, a 96-78 clobbering on April 5, came without Nene in the lineup and Chicago netting sizable contributions from Joakim Noah and D.J. Augustin off the bench. Augustin in particular connected on six of Chicago's nine made threes that night, an obvious deviation for a team that ranks just 24th in three-point shooting percentage. The bigger takeway from that game was Washington's shooting from deep. They weren't riding a ton of momentum heading into it -- they shot just 5 for 19 the night before in New York -- and would go on to make just three of their next 34 attempts.
But Washington is responsible for snapping Chicago's five-game win streak in the month of January in convincing fashion, and beat them again just four days later thanks to a 23-point, 11-assist game from John Wall.
That's not to say the Bulls are necessarily a good matchup. They are an Eastern Conference-best 22-9 since the All Star break and have been the best defense during that period as well. Joakim Noah has cemented his status as an MVP candidate in the process; without Luol Deng, he's emerged emerged as the hub of the offense. He's a phenomenal passer out of the high post and has single handedly kept a crumbling offense afloat.
It will be a back and forth battle. Washington has the athleticism and guard play to break things open, but Chicago's defense can just as easily shut down an offense that's fallen susceptible to opponents inviting them into taking long jumpers. We'll see who comes out on top.
There will be much more on the site in the coming days. In the meantime, let's hear some preliminary thoughts on the matchup.