The main difference is experience. Chicago is playing in their sixth consecutive postseason; the fourth under current head coach Tom Thibodeau. Players like Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler are known postseason entities.
The Wizards, meanwhile, are playoff neophytes. This will be the first postseason in Washington since 2007-08, the last successful run for the old Gilbert Arenas/Antawn Jamison teams. How long ago was that? Well, Jamison was released from the Atlanta Hawks in February and not picked up by another NBA team, and Arenas hasn't been in the league for the past two years. No current Wizard was on the team the last time Washington made the postseason.
But in this era of rapid player movement, one should never confuse a franchise's postseason experience with that of the players on its roster. According to the Daily Herald's Mike McGraw, you can find playoff veterans up and down the Wizards lineup:
In case you were wondering, those six players are Nene (44 games), Trevor Ariza (41 games), Marcin Gortat (46 games), Al Harrington (48 games), Andre Miller (52 games) and Drew Gooden (44 games).
Ironically, the two Wizards with NBA Finals experience—Ariza and Gortat—gained that experience against one another in the 2009 Finals, with Ariza's Los Angeles Lakers triumphing over Gortat's Orlando Magic in five games.
Washington picked up a great deal of playoff experience late in the season. They acquired Miller at the trade deadline, welcomed back Harrington in February after he spent two months recovering from surgery to remove loose particles in his right knee and picked up Gooden on a free-agent deal on February 26.
Those three have been relied upon to provide veteran leadership. Harrington called out the team for a lack of mental toughness earlier in the season, per the Washington Post's Michael Lee:
Our weakest thing at this point is our mental toughness. We really lock in for the good teams and then we allow these teams that are sub-par and we just relax. We try to play in the last six minutes of the game and think we can turn it on but we’re not the Miami Heat. We’re not that good. We can be that good as far as closing teams out. We’re not there yet. That’s what these guys need to realize.
The Wizards will need to play with that veteran consistency against a tough squad like Chicago. Even playoff newcomers like John Wall and Bradley Beal will need to play smart, disciplined basketball.
Fortunately, Washington has already acquired quite a few old-timers to show these kids the ropes.
All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
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