With the hype and ceremony of honoring the 1991 championship team behind them, the Bulls can now focus on the remaining 17 games on the schedule as they steam towards the playoffs.
Other than the Los Angeles Lakers, there isn't a team in the league that is hotter than Chicago, and even that is arguable. Winners of 13 of their last 15 games and in a virtual tie for first place in the Eastern conference, the Bulls face a Wizards team that has won a single road game all year and may be without two starters. These two teams could not be more diametrically opposed at this point in the season. Per coach Tom Thibodeau's relentless instruction, the Bulls continue to improve on their way to what will be a fascinating, and hopefully extended 2011 playoff season. For the Wizards, it is more a matter of finishing the games on the schedule so this season can be over. It happens every season, when contenders are so clearly separated from pretenders and people like me have to dig through media guides to find compelling angles to games that, barring miracles, can only go one way.
It has been strange, and perhaps it is just coincidence, that Chicago has had incredible fortune with other team's injuries of late. As was the case with the Chicago Bears' season, key opposing players seem to be out on a game-by-game basis. From the Bucks missing Ersan Ilyasova and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the Hawks missing Josh Smith to the Hornets missing Chris Paul, every night seems to have a bit of fortune. As much as it helps with regular season victories, it is equally important the Bulls play, and win, a few tough contests before the playoffs begin in earnest. Chicago goes for the 4-game season sweep of the Wizards tonight.
Wizards To Watch For
It is simply a tough time to be a card-carrying fan of the Wiz. Losers of 4 straight and 9 of their last 10, Washington will play shorthanded with Blatche and Lewis on the Bench. That means Josh Howard and Trevor Booker will start, stretching an already paper-thin roster. The Wizards do have young talent in the backcourt, as 2010 #1 overall pick John Wall continues to impress during what has been a difficult rookie season. Shooting guard Nick Young can really light it up at times, but he averages 12.2 shots for every assist he has made. Is it unprofessional to call a player a ball hog? Then I guess I'm unprofessional.
Bulls To Watch For
Really, watch for the whole team. This looks to be one of those games where Thibodeau can really spread minutes around, getting some quality rest for high usage players like Luol Deng and Derrick Rose. I would expect to see a box score with five or six players in double figures. That said, the Wizards do not defend, especially on the perimeter, so Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson will have plenty of open looks from beyond the arc. The Bulls will look to convert turnovers into fastbreak points early, get the United Center crowd involved, and then frustrate Washington with their halfcourt defense. Once again, Carlos Boozer will miss the contest with a sprained ankle.
The probable flogging begins at 7 p.m. CDT on Comcast SportsNet.
Follow Zachary Lee on Twitter @rightfieldsucks