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3 Points: Sizing up the Bulls-Wizards series

4/17/2014
John Wall averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 assists during the regular season, including 20.7 points in three games against the Bulls. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Every week, Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.

1. What about the Wizards should concern the Bulls?

Friedell: How will the Bulls be able to contain John Wall and will Tom Thibodeau be willing to use Kirk Hinrich more than his customary 25-30 minutes a night? Nene and Marcin Gortat have given the Bulls problems in the past. They can score and they know how to play on the blocks. It's going to be up to Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to limit each player in what will be a physical matchup.

Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: I'll be Captain Obvious and say Wall. In going 2-1 against the Bulls this season, Wall averaged 20 points (shooting 50 percent from the field) and eight assists. With time to prepare, the Bulls will have a solid game plan to limit his penetration, swarming him off pick-and-rolls and disrupting his flow. No one preps better than Thibodeau, and his players listen with religious fervor. But Wall is finally realizing his potential as an All-Star-caliber player, and you can't always corral talent. Another area of concern is where the Bulls are the strongest. Chicago tends to have an advantage over most teams down low when Noah and Gibson are paired together. But with bruisers Nene and Marcin Gortat, the Wizards will give the Bulls' dynamic duo some trouble.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: Their ability to shut teams down defensively, and the Wizards aren't the greatest offensive team in the league. The Wizards finished 10th in the NBA in field goal percentage, and the Bulls were the second-best team (behind the Pacers) in opponents field goal percentage. Usually, especially with a team like the Bulls, when the playoffs begin, defenses have a deeper impact in games. It takes most offenses a few games to get adjusted and going, and I think that's going to be the situation with the Wizards. They have six players (including Webster at 9.7 points a game) who average double digits. In this series against the Bulls, not only are all six of those players going to have problems reaching their averages, but collectively there probably won't be one game when all six score in double figures. And that eventually will be their downfall.


2. What's the most intriguing matchup between the Bulls and Wizards?

Friedell: I'm curious to see what unfolds between Jimmy Butler and Bradley Beal. Both players are young, talented and they want to make a bigger name for themselves. They will be going after each other every game, and it should be fun to watch.

Greenberg: Hinrich vs. Wall will be interesting. While their styles are, um, different, Hinrich had a hand mentoring Wall in his rookie season, and now the student must beat the master to become a true ... Ah, just kidding. Seriously, though, Hinrich has had a great season, because he hasn't had to exert himself every game thanks to the addition of D.J. Augustin. Hinrich is averaging 29 minutes a game and has been bulldoggy on defense. While the Bulls truly play a team defense, Hinrich will be responsible for disrupting Wall's flow. Butler against Beal will be another individual matchup to watch. Here's another question: How will the Wizards defend the Noah point-center offense?

Jackson: Beal and whoever is guarding him from game to game. Between Butler, Tony Snell and Ronnie Brewer -- Hinrich is going to have his hands full with Wall -- Beal is going to have the Sybil of matchup problems. The Bulls are going to show him so many different looks with so many different players in front of him, it's going to be a thing of beauty either watching them confuse the hell out of him or him figuring it out and dropping 20-plus every game.


3. Who wins the series and why?

Friedell: The Bulls in six. They are playoff-tested. They want to prove this season hasn't been a waste, and they are confident. On top of all that, they are as healthy as they've been in Thibodeau's tenure heading into a playoffs -- aside from Derrick Rose of course. The Bulls just have too much talent, too much experience and too much defensive prowess in the end.

Greenberg: Call me a homer, but I'm saying the Bulls in six. They haven't lost consecutive games since Feb. 1-3, so I don't see that streak ending so soon. But the Wizards will still win at least a game, and I'm guessing two. I don't think the Bulls will steamroll Washington in their wins either. This will be a fun series to watch, but I think the Bulls are well-conditioned and mentally ready to advance in the playoffs.

Jackson: The Bulls. They are just, excuse me, have just shown themselves to be, a better team than the Wizards over the course of this season. On the real tip though, we are going to find out in this series if the Wizards have any fight in them. We know the Bulls do, and eventually that's going to be the factor that wins it for the Bulls. But if the Wizards show that they have the will to not wanna lose, to win a few games in this series that they aren't supposed to win, then next year -- with the help of signing one midlevel vet in the offseason -- seeing them in the playoffs will be a problem.