Our newest contributor at WARR, Michael Walton II, is following the Chicago Bulls and the NBA throughout this playoff season.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and burgeoning high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
Refunds for tickets for the Chicago Bulls’ bandwagon are in much more demand now than they were 24 hours ago.
Sunday night was was a Bulls fan’s nightmare as pretty much everything the Wizards needed to happen did in its 102-93 win in Game 1 of their first round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Coach Randy Wittman got his team to come out and play extremely aggressive while also playing under control, committing only 10 turnovers in the game. There were many reasons for the Wizards victory, with two main culprits behind those reasons.
Co-MVPs: Coming into the series I expected John Wall and Bradley Beal to be the two biggest problems for the Bulls on the defensive side of the ball. Beal and Wall were effective in getting to the free throw line and manufacturing points (hitting 88% of their combined 17 free throws), but they were quite ineffective from the field. Nene and Trevor Ariza, on the other hand, were near unstoppable.
Ariza scored 18 points while hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Nene scored a game-high 24 points while shooting 65%. It was a dominant performance from a player I truly thought didn’t have enough left in the tank to still be effective in an intense playoff game. There were more than a few veteran players who stepped up for the Wizards on the night.
X-Factor: The “ageless” Andre Miller is in fact 38-year old and Sunday night you might not have mistaken him for that advanced NBA age if you weren’t already familiar with him.
The 14-year veteran played just over 13.5 minutes, making five of his seven shots to finish with 10 points, he was one of six Wizards in double figures. Miller is a nice change-of-pace point guard, proving even more effective in his current situation relieving Wall, which is like a wise, steady turtle coming in for an impulsive hare. Miller and his veteran savvy were very crucial in keeping the Wizards offense in control and focused as it overcame some steep deficits the Bulls built during the second half.
Silver Lining for Bulls: As I mentioned earlier, the Wizards showed great care for the ball, as evidenced by their 10 turnovers. The Bulls were just as impressive to that end, only turning the ball over eight times. Most of the run outs that the Wizards had were from missed Bulls shots rather than sloppy turnovers.
Jimmy Butler had an excellent game and eased concerns I had about him being a liability on offense. Butler played great, prompting Bulls announcer Chuck Swirsky to tweet that he was “playing out of his mind.” The Bulls were out-rebounded by six (45-39) and had less assists than the Wizards. Unusual stats as far as the Bulls are concerned, but give credit to coach Wittman and the Wizards for executing their game plan. Nonetheless, going forward I expect the Bulls to use rebounding and good passing to re-gain control of the series.
In Game 2 I look for Tom Thibodeau to have his team come out and make a statement with some increased resistance coming from the defense. DJ Augustin will have to shoot better than 3-of-15 from the field and I expect that. The NBA playoffs always come down to the between-game adjustments, and there is where Thibs will shine.
Expect Carlos Boozer to be utilized more in the next game. Boozer sits for long stretches because of his ineffective defense, but with the Bulls struggling to score, I think that he will play more important minutes going forward. Boozer scored 11 pts on 50% shooting in his 24 minutes while making Marcin Gortat look uncomfortable guarding him out on the perimeter.
The Bulls got shocked and overtook in a Game 1 that they controlled much of the way, but there is no reason to panic — the Bulls offensive woes are extremely well-documented, and only the most meatball-ish homers could have expected a sweep coming in this series.
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