Well Pippen Peoples as you know the season for the Bulls ended last week losing 75-69 in Game five of the first round matchup of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Before the series started, Pippen Ain’t Easy went over all of the matchups from the centers to the backcourt to the forwards. Now that the series is over, we will compare data to see what happened in the series. In honor of the Floyd “Money” Mayweather fight on Saturday, we will use the boxing analogy.
The first round of the analysis was concentrated on the centers, Marcin Gortat and Joakim Noah. Round one went to the Washington Wizards. The next round we will look back at the backcourt. The Washington Wizards brought out the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Many believe that these two will be the cornerstone of the Wizards uprising for the next five years. John Wall finally got the monkey off his back in leading the Wizards to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and the first time in his career. Bradley Beal shook off nagging injuries in his rookie year to avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx. Chicago brought out Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler. Most thought the Wizards had the advantage going into this series. Let’s see how things turned out.
John Wall/Bradley Beal
In Game one, these two looked like it was their first playoff game. They didn’t shoot particularly well only shooting 7-25 from the field. John Wall finished with 16 points on only 4-14 shooting with six rebounds and six assists. The story of this game was that he was held out in the fourth quarter, while Andre Miller got a bulk of the minutes in crunch time. This showed me a lot about the maturity of John Wall and how much he is committed to winning. He could have sulked and allowed a bad vibe to come into play in this series. It did not and that was a small thing that really went a long way in how this series played out. Beal scored 13 points with seven assists and two rebounds. This game was the only one where these two did not play well but with the frontline playing so well, it did not matter.
For the rest of the series, this was not a problem. As predicted, John Wall pretty much owned Kirk Hinrich off the dribble while playing good defense playing the passing lanes. He did not shoot a great percentage from the floor but he did a good job with his floor game and knocked down shots when it was necessary. Plus he did a nice job setting up his backcourt mate Bradley Beal. Let me tell you something, we all saw this guy grow up in front of our eyes. He knocked down big shot after big shot. Not only that he had no problem sticking his nose in and getting big rebounds as well. I told Ben Mehic of the Wiz of Awes if these two continue to work on their games and not get caught up in the hype. These guys could be the backcourt of the future.
Kirk Hinrich/Jimmy Butler
This matchup went pretty much as advertised. What I did not know was how the Wizards used Hinrich in their defensive strategy. The Wizards pretty much baited Hinrich into running the offense which threw the rhythm off offensively. Instead of allowing Joakim Noah room to initiate the offense, they would crowd him and force the ball into Hinrich’s hands. Most of the time the offense pretty much was Hinrich over dribbling for 15 or 16 seconds which caused the offense to start late. The Wizards would play off him which baited him into shots. Up until the last game of the series he was not hitting a lot. After he blew a lay up in Game two but got bailed out with a foul, he bricked the free throws. It prompted me to write a piece about if the Bulls wanted to play the “If necessary” games (Games 5,6,7) the Bulls needed to bench Hinrich. It added yet another subplot because it prompted a rebuttal piece from staff writer Ashley Wijangco. In the end, it came down to this, Hinrich struggled to keep Wall in front of him on defense while the Wizards had no problems allowing him to shoot on the offensive end. He shot an average of three shots more in the playoffs than he did in the regular season…with similar results.
Jimmy Butler is probably still sitting on a block of ice at this moment. He didn’t shoot great in this series but who would running marathons every single game playing defense on the Wizards best wing player while trying to score on the other end? With virtually no rest. I believe that Butler could easily file a claim with the Illinois labor coalition based on the work that this guy had to endure in this series. For what it’s worth, any Bulls fan can’t ask for any more than what this man gave. If you think about it, he was the reason this series wasn’t a sweep. He kept his cool in Game three and didn’t go back at Nene which got Nene ejected from the game. The very next possession Butler came down and hit a critical three point shot. He went on to hit another three late and knock down his free throws to keep the Wizards at bay to secure the only win of the series. Granted he missed a key lay up at the end of the game in Game five but, just like the rest of the Bulls, he had nothing left to give.
Round two: Washington Wizards