CHICAGO BULLS (32-36)
at WASHINGTON WIZARDS (41-26)
Tip-off: Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: N/A, Total: N/A
The Bulls will be hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive with a win over the Wizards in Washington on Friday.
Chicago was hoping to get the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, but that appears to be slipping away right now. The Bulls lost 98-91 as two-point home underdogs against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, and they have now lost seven of their past 10 games. This team just canít get it going offensively right now, as it has shot worse than 40.0% from the floor in three of its past four games. The Bulls have only shot better than 45.0% from the floor in one of their past eight games as well. Washington has also had its share of struggles lately though. The Wizards have lost two straight games heading into this one, and they definitely should have won their most recent game. Washington was a seven-point home favorite against Dallas on Wednesday, but the Mavericks beat them 112-107. Washington must get back on track soon or the team will fall far behind in the race for the two-seed in the East. Fortunately for the Wizards, theyíre facing a Bulls team that they are 2-1 SU against this season. They are, however, just 1-2 ATS in those games though. One trend that sticks out when looking at this game is the fact that Washington is 17-7 ATS after non-conference games this season. It doesnít hurt that the Wizards will be facing a Bulls team that just found that it would be without SG Dwyane Wade (Elbow) for the rest of the season. Itís not all good for Washington though. PG John Wall (Foot) is questionable for this game and itíd be tough to win without him.
The Bulls have not played well recently, but PG Rajon Rondo (7.2 PPG, 6.4 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.4 SPG) has found his groove. Over the past two games, Rondo is averaging 18.5 PPG, 7.0 APG, 6.0 RPG and 1.5 SPG in 35.5 MPG. He has also shot the ball incredibly well, going 15-for-31 from the floor and 6-for-10 from three in those contests. If Rondo can continue to shoot the ball well then the Bulls just might right the ship as this season closes. The point guard play has been a problem all season, but that looks to be changing. PF Nikola Mirotic (9.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG) is somebody that has benefited from the play of Rondo. Mirotic was benched in three straight games from Mar. 8 to Mar. 12, but he is averaging 19.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.0 BPG in the past two contests. If he can continue to shoot the ball well then that would be big for Chicago. And as is always the case, SF Jimmy Butler (23.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.9 SPG) must be on his game for Chicago. Butler struggled against Memphis last game, scoring just 14 points on 4-for-16 shooting from the field. If he is not more efficient than that on Friday then itís hard to imagine Chicago earning this road win.
PG John Wall (23.2 PPG, 10.7 APG, 4.3 RPG, 2.0 SPG) left the game against Dallas in the second quarter, but he returned in the third and finished with 26 points and 11 assists in 36 minutes of action. He might not play in this one, but the Wizards should have a good shot to win either way. SG Bradley Beal (23.2 PPG, 1.1 SPG) is more than capable of holding it down for a home game, and he should see more time handling the ball if Wall is out. Over the past five games, Beal is averaging 26.2 PPG on 48.0% shooting from the floor and 44.9% shooting from three. If he can keep shooting it that well then the Wizards are not going to continue losing. One guy that will need to step it up in this game is SF Otto Porter Jr. (14.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG). Porter is playing well recently, averaging 16.6 PPG and 7.0 RPG on 59.0% shooting from the floor and 50.0% shooting from three over the past five games. He will, however, need to be a lot more aggressive in looking for his shot if Wall is out. Itíd likely take a 20-point performance for him to really help this team win, and he is averaging just 9.0 PPG in three meetings with Chicago this season. That must change on Friday.