At long last, the Washington Wizards have another chance to win the games against the Chicago Bulls they haven’t won. (It hasn’t happened for more than a decade, we can say now.)
In order to avoid squandering their lead in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff race in a three-game losing streak, the Wizards host Chicago on Sunday night at Capital One Arena. This win or loss will come with serious implications if Washington (36-20) can get back on track and the Bulls (26-30) somehow find a way to get right back in the standings.
It remains to be seen how this matchup will go, but we have a few factors to consider.
Before Sunday’s game, Chicago (the 15th-place team in the conference) is one of the most dangerous 3-point shooting teams in the league (averaging 9.8 threes per game), and the Wizards have the NBA’s 11th-best defense against 3-pointers (6.4 per game) after being near the bottom of the list early in the season. Washington would love to smother the Bulls in the paint and get off to a fast start on defense.
“That’s going to be the key game, that and beating Toronto,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said Friday night after the team narrowly lost to the Raptors. “We will see (on Sunday). We’ve put a stretch together where we are in control of the division, and we’ve been good at defending. We are in great shape right now. We have to be sharp, and we have to be ready.”
Washington also has something to prove — unlike the fact that it has a winning record against a cross-country rival that it has to play three times per season.
The last time the Wizards defeated the Bulls in Washington was Feb. 4, 2006, in a game with sweeping implications in the playoff race. No longer in the playoffs, the Bulls had won nine of their previous 10 games against the Wizards, including four straight on the road (all without their legendary point guard Derrick Rose).
Washington went on to win the Southeast Division by six games and then fell short in the first round of the playoffs against the Orlando Magic.