Well Pippen Peoples as you know the Chicago Bulls had their season unceremoniously ended by the Washington Wizards 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 form 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 have been using the boxing analogy to analyze this series.
If you have been following along for the last three articles, the first three rounds have not been good for the Chicago Bulls. The first round of the analysis covered Marcin Gortat and Joakim Noah. Round one went to Marcin Gortat and the Washington Wizards. The second round covered the backcourts. Chicago’s backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler was compared against the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Round two went the same way as Beal and Wall was clearly the victors. Round two went to the Wizards. Round three broke down the benches of these two teams. Again the Wizards took another round. In the fourth and final round we will break down the forwards. The Bulls started the tandem of Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy while the Wizards started Trevor Ariza and Nene Hilario.
The Washington Wizards
This wasn’t close. Nene was a Bull in a China shop (pun intended) and Trevor Ariza was the silent killer. These two was the reason that the Bulls are watching the playoffs at home as we speak. Let’s break down how they did it.
Nene pretty much dominated Joakim Noah in the series. With Noah coming off his Defensive Player of the Year performance this year, Nene was unstoppable. This was a performance that no one saw coming. Nene had missed over 20 games with an MCL sprain and was on a minutes restriction leading up to the playoffs. Granted we know now that Noah needed surgery on his knee but that in no way takes away from what Nene did throughout this series. He reminded fans of how good he can really be. The only real problem that has ever had in his career is staying healthy. Whether it be nagging injuries or cancer from a few years ago in Denver, he has not been able to show consistently how talented a player he is. Plus with the coaching of former coach of the year, George Karl in his ear. You know that he has the fundamentals to go with that talent. To be totally honest, the only player that stopped Nene was Nene. If he hadn’t stupidly grabbed Jimmy Butler by the neck in Game three and got himself suspended, the series could have easily been a sweep. Nene’s performance does not taint Noah’s award by a long shot. Sometimes certain players match up better than others. Nene is so strong and skilled with a jumper out to 17 feet, he was able to stretch the defense of the Bulls.
If Nene was loud in the series. Trevor Ariza was quiet. Offensively, his blowout game was in Game four when he went for 30 points when Nene was suspended. But that’s not the story. The impact Ariza had been the shutting down of D.J. Augustin. The Bulls needed Augustin’s scoring to stay competitive through the first round and Ariza shut that down effectively. His length bothered Augustin as he could not get a shot off without a hand in his face. Plus from the three-point line, Trevor Ariza was red-hot playing off John Wall and Bradley Beal. He was another veteran that was brought in a couple of years ago to provide stability around the young guards. It’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s the only player on the roster with a championship ring, winning one with Kobe back in L.A.
This series for Mike Dunleavy had some good news and some bad news. Let’s get the good news out-of-the-way. Mike Dunleavy set a team record for three pointers made in a single game knocking down eight in Game three. He went on to score 35 points in the Chicago Bulls only win. He even shut Bradley Beal up when he said in his halftime interview that he would not score in the second half. Okay let’s soak that in. Now the bad. He did very little else for the rest of the series. With the Wizards hounding D.J. Augustin not allowing him any looks at the basket, the Bulls needed Dunleavy to be consistent from the outside. He was not. On the defensive end, he let Trevor Ariza score effectively. I’ve always said this about Mike Dunleavy and how he affects the Bulls. If he shots better than 50% from the floor, the Bulls almost always win, like in Game three. If he doesn’t shoot well like he did in the other four games, the Bulls struggle.
This should be the last time we see Carlos Boozer in a uniform. For a variety of reasons. Carlos Boozer did not have a good series. There are many reasons that I could throw out but here’s just the bottom line. The minutes that he plays being the first and third quarters does not make any sense. I don’t know if anyone in the NBA can play with any rhythm under those circumstances. Tom Thibodeau does not trust him in crunch time much to Carlos Boozer’s chagrin. The two reportedly bumped heads against each other over playing time. In Game five, when Taj Gibson went down with an ankle injury. Carlos had a golden opportunity to stick it to Thibodeau, the front office and the fans who lit him up for the last couple of years. Instead he validated everyone who screamed to the top of their lungs about how Boozer never shows up in the playoffs. He wanted none of the pressure that came with taking the game over and scoring the ball which is what the team really could have used at that time. The rest of the team was tired. He wasn’t. That stood out more than anything else in this series. It might have been a microcosm of his stint in Chicago.
Final Round: Washington Wizards