Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Bulls Vs. Wizards First Round Matchup: Guards!

Well Pippen Peoples we made it. The Bulls are a playoff team, they’re in. Now that they are in the playoffs, now what? Well to decipher the hoopla of the Eastern Conference from pillar to post, log on to Pippen Ain’t Easy. We are your best choice for Bulls news, previews and reviews. Right now we are breaking down the matchups between The Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. We here at Pippen Ain’t Easy are going to the essence of the matchups. We are breaking down all of the positions on the floor, to the bench, to the coaches. The first breakdown was the center matchup between Marcin Gortat and Joakim Noah. The next breakdown will be the backcourt. The matchup will be Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal vs. Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler.

Out of all of the factors in this series, there are two that will determine the outcome of this first round matchup. The guards are one and the other I’m going to let a group called the “Legion of Booz” deal with. But I digress. For the Bulls to have any chance of winning this series, the starting backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler must keep pace with the starting backcourt of the Wizards. I’m not saying beat them head to head but keep pace. This means stopping penetration on the defensive end AND scoring something on the offensive end. Lets look at the Wizards backcourt.

John Wall

I can safely assume that everyone reading this knows the John Wall can play. You can’t be one of John Calipari’s one and done bunch from Kentucky and not be able to handle the rock a little bit. John Wall is probably the happiest player on the Wizards team right now considering that heavy monkey was taken off of his back now that Washington is in the playoffs for the first time since he set foot in DC.  John Wall has rounded himself statistically into a pro leading the Wizards in scoring at 19.4 points per contest and assists with 8.8. Now you noticed I said statistically. Late in the season I noticed a few chinks in the armor. I remember a game late in the season against the Charlotte Bobcats when Wall lost his temper a little bit and got frustrated with the officiating. He ended up having a bad 4th quarter and the Wizards lost the game. It’s going to be interesting how John Wall handles the pressure of the playoff atmosphere. That Bobcats game  had a playoff intensity because both teams were fighting for their playoff lives. If Wall can get frustrated in a game like that one in the regular season, what will he do in the real thing? Secondly, even though the incident was downplayed a little bit, I’m sure Wall ruffled a few feathers going to watch the NCAA final game in person. Considering that the Wizards were in a race for the playoffs some thought that might not be a good idea. Focus will be something that Wall will have to have for the Wizards to be successful. The Bulls are going to have to keep this guy out of the lane and prevent penetration. Let him shoot the jumper. At 43% I’m not convinced that this guy can shoot straight on a consistent basis. If the Bulls take care of the ball and not let him get any steals (Wall averages nearly two per game) he won’t get any easy points from the fast break. John Wall can be had if the Bulls slow the game down and make him execute in the half court and make him depend on an efficient floor game.

Bradley Beal

Pippen Peoples, Bradley Beal can flat-out shoot. Get mad if you want to, but this guy can let it fly. Ask the Boston Celtics. In a game the Wizards had to have to get the fifth seed, Beal lit the Celtics up for 27 points on 10-14 shooting which included a nice 3-5 from the land of three. Then he went to the line and hit all four of his free throws. Then he found time from knocking down shots to grab seven rebounds, dish out three assists and get two steals. Umm, busy night. After drinking milk to build strong bones and stop getting stress fractures in his feet. Bradley Beal had a very productive second season for the Wizards. Beal averaged 17 points per game while dishing out three assists. The Bulls are going to have to put a hand in this dude’s face. If not the Bulls are going to have a long series.

The Washington Wizards are a perimeter team that depend on these two to generate the offense. Lets take a look at the backcourt of the Chicago Bulls.

Kirk Hinrich

Let me tell you something Pippen Peoples, Ashley Wijangco loves this guy. She wrote a very detailed defense breaking down what he means to the Bulls after the “Legion of Booz” lit him up. If you have time check out her piece named “In Defense of Kirk” it’s outstanding. Almost made me emotional. Ashley is my peoples, but I don’t agree and I had better be wrong if the Bulls want to get out of the first round. This is easily the worst shooting year of Hinrich’s career. Here’s how I determine if someone can shoot or not. If a player shoots less than 40%, they can’t shoot. Hinrich shot 39% for the season. UGH! He struggles mightily keeping quick guards in front of him defensively. John Wall fits the description of a quick guard. There really is no sugar-coating this. Kirk Hinrich has to play better in this series than he did in the regular season. The Bulls can’t afford dribble penetration that will put pressure on the frontline consisting of Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and ESPECIALLY Joakim Noah. Tom Thibodeau believes in this guy much to the chagrin of some (starting with me) but if  Hinrich hasn’t found his jumper yet he’d better go find Pookie and Ray Ray on 1060 West Addison and buy one. The Bulls are going to need it.

Jimmy Butler

To all readers new to Pippen Ain’t Easy, let me tell you something. Jimmy Butler is my favorite player on the Chicago Bulls. He has that old school game that I enjoy watching. The problem is, I think I watched it too much. The question about Butler coming into this series will be how much does he have in the tank? Since the Bulls traded Luol Deng to Cleveland, Butler has been run ragged with all the minutes on the floor. In one game against the Orlando Magic, Jimmy Butler played an obscene 60 MINUTES! Yeah, like the TV show. My knees hurt just writing this. Jimmy Butler is an outstanding defender that has done an outstanding job defending the opponent’s best player. When Miami came into Chicago and got beat down on national TV, it was Butler collaborating with Joakim Noah to clamp down on Lebron James which included a foot to the face from Butler when the two scrambled. That type of intensity will be needed for the Bulls to be successful in this series. Here’s where Butler gets into trouble. He shoots too many threes. Remember when I said if players shoot less than 40% they can’t shoot? Well Jimmy Butler shoots 39% from the field. Here’s the kicker, he shoots 29% from the three-point line. The Bulls need to fine him if he shoots from out there in this series. If Butler plays an efficient floor game and move without the ball, let Noah get him the ball then everything is fine. If Butler keeps firing threes thinking he’s the next coming of Craig Hodges, TROUBLE!

I’m going to close this one out plain and simple. The Bulls backcourt have to do two things. Keep Wall out of the paint and shoot an occasional jumper straight. Advantage: Wizards.

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Tags: Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler Kirk Hinrich

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