The Bulls visit our Nation's Capital this evening to tip-off against the Washington Wizards before enjoying a long break in the action thanks to the NBA All-Star game taking place this weekend at the United Center. Chicago's next game takes place nine days from now when they host Charlotte on February 20th on the West Side.
After losing their fifth in a row Sunday in Philly (118-111), a quick visit to DC could prove to be the perfect antidote to fix what's been ailing Chicago of late. So far this year the Bulls have been one of the few teams in the league to shut down Washington's potent offense, as they've twice defeated DC, including one time at Capital One Arena back in December.
Most likely tonight's game will come down to the ability of Chicago's 12th ranked scoring defense slowing a Wizards attack that averages 115.5 points per game. Washington guard Bradley Beal is a headache for every team standing in front of him, thus Chicago will have its work cut out to keep him in check. The eight-year guard comes in averaging a career-best 29.1 points per game, to go along with 6.3 assists. However, in two games against the Bulls, he's averaging 22.5 points while shooting an ugly 37.5% from the field and 23.1% from behind the arc. A great deal of the credit for those numbers is due to the suffocating defense of Bulls guard Kris Dunn. Unfortunately for Chicago, Dunn won't be able to take the floor due to right knee injury suffered a little less than two weeks ago. Thus, look for Chicago to use several different defenders on Beal, including Zach LaVine, Chandler Hutchison, and former DC teammate, Tomas Satoransky, from time to time.
The Wizards and Bulls respectively sit in 9th and 10th place in the East coming into tonight's contest. However, the teams have been heading in different directions of late as Washington has won three of their last five games, while the Bulls are hoping to break the reins of a five-game losing streak. For Chicago to stop the bleeding they will need to hit the floor focused and resolute, delivering a hardnosed effort from the moment the ball is tossed in the air until the final buzzer blares at the end of the night.
Chicago must play fast, yet poised, freely sharing the ball, while keeping turnovers in check. Nonetheless, the ball must crisply skip it from player-to-player and from side-to-side in search of open outside looks at the rim as well as unprotected driving lanes to basket. Every Bulls player on the floor must become engaged in the action. The ball can't end up stuck in just one player's hands while the rest stand and look. Chicago must create a free-flowing rhythm, where everyone constantly moves while communicating and playing together.
Defensively, the Bulls must impose its will with a gritty effort. They must be willing to lay it all out on the line, battling tooth-and-nail for every rebound, and willingly dive after every loose ball, while sticking close to their assigned man. Chicago's team defense cannot allow the Wizards any breathing room. As a collective unit, the Bulls must outwork and outexecute the Wizards in every possible way.