The Wizards look to end their mini two-game skid as they host the Chicago Bulls Friday night at Verizon Center. The Chicago Bulls are in the midst of a tailspin. The Bulls, once a lock for a playoff berth, have lost six of their last seven games and there appears to be dysfunction on all levels from the players, to the coaching staff, all the way up to the front office.
But despite the Bulls’ struggles, this is an important game for the Wizards. After two losses to teams with losing records, Washington needs to make sure they take care of business in this one to keep pace with the Celtics in the race for the second seed and to maintain some breathing room between themselves and the Raptors.
When: Friday, March 17th at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 1500 AM and Wizards Radio App
Wizards: John Wall (Game time decision, Foot)
Bulls: Dwyane Wade (Out for the season, Elbow), Cameron Payne (Game time decision, foot)
What to Watch for
Where’s the defense?
The Wizards have been horrific on defense over the past two weeks. Opponents are averaging 115.8 points per game against the Wizards since March 5th, even though some of those games have come against teams that struggle to score like the Magic, Kings, and Mavericks.
The Bulls come into this game ranked 24th in Offensive Rating, averaging 103.8 points per 100 possessions. On top of that, the Bulls are the worst three-point shooting team in the league knocking down just 32.4 percent of their three-point attempts. If the Wizards are looking for a remedy to get their defense right, this is that team. However, if they don’t bring the intensity and aren’t committed on the defensive end, this game will likely be played in the 110’s or 120’s yet again.
Washington needs Marcin Gortat to get back on track
Gortat, once a lock for a double-double, has been in a slump this month. His rebounding hasn’t taken a hit, but his scoring and shooting percentages sure have. Gortat has scored in double-figures just three times over the first nine games in March. After the first few possessions of the game, the Wizards have stopped running plays for Gortat on the block which has resulted in him getting just 6.9 shot attempts per game over the past nine games. Also, as Ian Mahinmi continues to come into his own, Gortat is slowing starting to see his minutes dwindle.
The Polish Machine has a great opportunity to get back on track as he’ll face a favorable matchup in Robin Lopez.
What’s the Wizards state of mind right now?
Washington has been just OK since the All-Star break for a variety of reasons. I don’t think this team is in coast mode just quite yet but they are no longer protecting their home court and are often finding themselves in double-digit holes quickly. As minutes start to add up for this team, fatigue seems to have set in a bit as Washington can sense that the regular season finish line is near and they’re somewhat going through the motions to get there.
However, coasting through these last 15 games is not a recipe for success. They’re losing ground to the Celtics for the second seed and if the Raptors can catch them, the Wizards would likely have to face Cleveland in the Conference Semifinals.
Most Likely Wizards Killer: Bobby Portis
During the summer on 2015, the big debate was over whether the Wizards should have drafted Kelly Oubre Jr. or Bobby Portis. Oubre has recently fallen out of the Wizards rotations while Portis is starting to get more opportunities since the Bulls traded away some of their frontcourt players. Don’t be surprised if Portis has a big game to fire up the debate again.