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Bulls-Wizards Game 2 Preview: Can Chicago recover its identity?

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

The Bulls defense surprisingly struggled with Noah on the floor in Game 1. (USATSI)
The Bulls defense struggled with Noah on the floor in Game 1. (USATSI)

More postseason coverage: Playoff schedule, results | Court Vision Monday

Previewing Game 2 of the Bulls-Wizards first-round series.

1. Where We Are: The Wizards stunned the Bulls in Game 1 102-93. They shot 49 percent against the Bulls' second-ranked defense. Washington out-rebounded the Bulls. Nene torched the Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah. D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich combined to shoot 10-of-31 from the field, which means D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich shot 31 times. Six Wizards ended in double-figures.

So it was not the most awesome Bulls experience you could ask for in Game 1.

Defense was the surprising issue, but be clear, the Bulls could have won this game if they could shoot, at all. Chicago shot 42 percent from the field, but much of that come on putbacks, their bread-and-butter offense. This is the playoffs. The Bulls are going to have to look like a decent offense for at least a few stretches to get out of this series, let alone go far in the playoffs.

2. The Big Number: 1.16. That's the number of points per possession the Wizards scored with Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah on the court in Game 1. If you're new to the metric, 1.00 would be decent. .90 would be fantastic, 1.05 is not great. 1.16 is disaster. It is ugly, it is unacceptable.

Noah was dealing with the death of his mentor before Game 1, and could have been emotionally compromised. But the Wizards' spacing and scheme also sliced and diced the Bulls up. Unless Randy Wittman, who has done a decent-to-god job with the Wizards this year has evolved into Gregg Popovich suddenly, the Bulls got worked, and it was worse with Noah on the floor.

That cannot happen in Game 2. The Bulls can't win a shoot-out. They can't win a slingshot-off. They can't win a throw-heavy-rocks-at-each-other-off.

They have to get back to their defensive identity.

3. Key Adjustment: The Bulls essentially dared Nene to beat them with the mid-range jumper out of the pick-and-pop in Game 1, and he bashed them. Expect the Bulls to jump out to defend that shot a lot more and bring help on the catch when he goes into triple-threat. Beating the Bulls the same way twice is difficult.

For the Wizards, once they stopped hemmorhaging rebounds, they were fine. They have to crash the glass consistently. Trevor Booker played just 19 minutes but the Bulls had just a 17 percent offensive rebounding rate when he was on the floor, as opposed to their 26.5. percent mark for the game. Booker needs to be used more to control the glass when the Wizards shift from offensive-centric lineups to defense-first approaches.

4. The Big Story: Can the Wizards pull this off again? Washington seemed to catch Chicago off guard in Game 1, but now the Bulls are against the Wall, so to speak. They know they can't go down 0-2, they're at home, and they're likely mad. This would seem like a situation similar to the Clippers-Warriors Game 2 scenario, in which the Clippers blew out the Warriors to make a point.

How Chicago responds will say a lot. I've long argued the Bulls don't have an extra gear. They play the same way, game to game. They didn't bring it, for whatever reason, in Game 1. Will they show that higher gear I'm not sure exists in Game 2? That could decide the series.

5. The Facts: Game top 9:30 p.m. ET. All players expecte to be available.

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