The Chicago Bulls (44-37) may still have designs on taking the fifth seed in the Eastern conference. If they can defeat the Washington Wizards (29-52) on Wednesday, they would be position to leap frog the Atlanta Hawks.
Because positioning is still up for grabs, the Bulls need to win this game.
Ruining the Bulls' opportunities to rise in the standings will be the battle cry of the Wizards. They will come into Chicago hoping to play the spoiler role.
On Monday, the Wizards fell, 106-101, to the Nets despite the fact that both Brook Lopez and Deron Williams were out of the lineup.
John Wall had 18 points and 12 assists in defeat.
Chicago produced an impressive 102-84 road win over the Orlando Magic on Monday. It's true, it was just the lowly Magic, but the Bulls were dominant and as healthy as they have been in months.
Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returned to the lineup and the Bulls were led by Carlos Boozer's 22 points and Luol Deng's 18.
It may seem as though this should be an easy win for the Bulls on Wednesday night, but the Wizards have actually taken two of three from the Bulls this season.
Chicago took the first meeting on Dec 29.
The Wizards were still playing without John Wall, and the Bulls shook off a strong performance from Emeka Okafor (11 points, 18 rebounds) to win a low-scoring game 87-77 at the United Center.
The Bulls were paced by Boozer's 15 points and 12 rebounds. Marco Belinelli also had 17 points off the bench for Chicago.
Low-scoring games have been the trend for these two teams. The Wizards have taken the last two games against Chicago with neither team scoring more than 90 points.
On Jan. 26, the Wizards smothered the Bulls with a strong defensive effort. They held Chicago to just 40 percent shooting from the field and prevailed, 86-73.
Only Nate Robinson had double-figure scoring for Chicago with 19 points.
The Wizards had Wall in the lineup for this one, and he had 15 points and seven assists. Okafor was again big with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
The most recent game was played just two weeks ago on April 2. The Wizards won, 90-86, behind 27 points, eight rebounds and nine assists from Wall. Chicago was severely impacted by injury in this game, though.
They played without Noah and Belinelli.
Can the Bulls pull things together now that all of their players are active—sans Derrick Rose of course? Here's how you can watch this important regular-season finale.
When: Wednesday, April 17, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: United Center in Chicago
TV: NBA League Pass, CSN-Chicago and Comcast SportsNet
Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Pay Service)
(per CBS Sports)
- Derrick Rose, PG (Knee) Out until at least mid-April
It's been a while since the Bulls' injury report was this short. With Rose still out, this may be as strong as this team will get through the postseason.
- Trevor Ariza, SG (Knee) Out for season
- Bradley Beal, SG (Ankle) Out for rest of season
- Nene, C Knee (Foot) Out for season
- Martell Webster, SG (Abdomen) Out for season
- Leandro Barbosa, SG (Knee) Out for season
The shoe is now on the other foot in this matchup. The Wizards are decimated by injuries to end the season.
They are especially thin at the shooting guard. But this is the final game of the season and the active players will be pushed to play huge minutes.
Garrett Temple will likely play 40-plus minutes at the 2-guard.
- PF—Carlos Boozer
- SF—Luol Deng
- C—Nazr Mohammed
- SG—Marco Belinelli
- PG—Kirk Hinrich
Though Noah returned to action on Monday, he didn't start.
There have been no reports as to whether he will start on Wednesday. Head coach Tom Thibodeau did say it was a "possibility" that Noah and Gibson could be kept on minutes limits into the playoffs, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Because of that, I think Noah may not start, but we'll know for sure closer to game time.
- PF—Cartier Martin
- SF—Trevor Booker
- C—Emeka Okafor
- SG—Garrett Temple
- PG—John Wall
Does it Matter if the Bulls Get the Fifth or Sixth Seed?
Atlanta currently holds a half-game lead over the Bulls. If they lose one or both of their remaining games it opens the door for Thibodeau's battered bunch.
Chicago owns the head-to-head tiebreaker so if the teams finish with an identical record, the Bulls would get the fifth seed. Why is that important?
Because landing in the fifth seed would give the Bulls a first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. Chicago took three of four from the Nets during the regular season.
The only game they lost was in Brooklyn and the Bulls played without Noah, Boozer and Hinrich.
If the Bulls get the sixth seed, that would put them in a first-round meeting with the Indiana Pacers. They have not fared as well against their Central division rivals. The Pacers have taken three of four from the Bulls.
So it would seem they would benefit from rising to fifth.
Reaching 30 Victories After a Terrible Start Is Motivation for Wizards?
After starting the season 4-28 and playing without Wall and Nene early, the Wizards have gone 24-24 the rest of the way.
If Wall had played the entire season, it is safe to assume the team would be in the playoff mix. As it stands, they are searching for their 30th win of the season. This will be their highest win total since the 2007-08 season.
Head coach Randy Wittman wants to attain that goal. Per Michael Lee of the Washington Post, Wittman said:
We were behind the eight ball for so many [games] . . . and for the most part, weathered the storm. We created a style of play with our main guys that I think our guys can see and we can be competitive and we can be in the fight and we can be right there.
Key Matchup: Noah/Mohammed vs. Okafor
The Wizards have out-rebounded the Bulls in every game this season. That's a major rarity considering the Bulls have been one of the league's best rebounding teams over the last three seasons.
This year, they have slipped to ninth in that category and the Wizards are eighth.
It starts with Okafor who has been a glass-eating monster for the Wizards against the Bulls. He's averaging 14.3 rebounds per game against Chicago this season.
Noah may not play a ton of minutes, but he and Mohammed must collectively slow Okafor on the glass. These two teams have played low-scoring games all season, the team that wins the battle of the boards will probably win this game.
This will likely be a close contest, but the Bulls have risen to the occasion in big games all season. With a relatively healthy roster playing for playoff positioning at home, they will come through with the win.
My prediction is Bulls 90, Wizards 83.
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