Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 7:00 AM
It became very clear through the course of Sunday Night’s series opener between the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls that the Bulls had no idea how to defend Nene Hilario. The big Brazilian could mostly do what he wanted when guarded one-on-one. If the Bulls double-teamed, Nene would pass out of trouble to start a sequence that often ended with an open look.
Chicago is known for great defense. But, they’re not known for SIZE. That’s an issue they need to resolve quickly or what was supposed to be a close first round series (or even an easy series win for Chicago), is going to be over soon with the Wizards advancing to face the winner of Indiana/Atlanta.
The regular season stats we’re about to review don’t quite tell the story of how Game One played out. Chicago is generally a fantastic defensive team. Washington can be inconsistent offensively when opponents have size (or when Nene is out with an injury). Our key indicator stats do show why Chicago was a series favorite up front…and was laying about five points in the opener. Washington’s specific matchup advantages led to a double digit cover!
Washington: 103.3 per 100 possessions (ranked #16 in the NBA)
Chicago: 99.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #27 in the NBA)
Washington was league average this year. Chicago was horrible for two-thirds of the season, but made some adjustments down the stretch that had them playing more effectively on this side of the ball. Chicago was scoring well Sunday until going cold at exactly the wrong time in the fourth quarter. It’s tough to ever take Chicago seriously as a true playoff threat until they figure out how to run an offense!
Washington: 102.4 per 100 possessions (ranked #9 in the NBA)
Chicago: 97.8 per 100 possessions (ranked #2 in the NBA)
You can see how great Chicago grades out. You may not have been aware that Washington was also a top 10 defense in the 2013-14 season. Some of that comes from playing in the Eastern conference. But, they do have size and speed…and a respect for the importance of defense. You definitely saw that when the game was being decided Sunday. Chicago’s edge in this series was supposed to be defense and coaching. That disappears if they can’t solve the riddle of matching up with Nene.
Chicago is one of the slowest teams in the league, while Washington is just a shade under league average. Normally, a playoff matchup favors the team more comfortable in slow action. That’s one reason so many pundits were picking Chicago. They play “playoff basketball” all season long. But, because of the matchup situation, slowing things down only creates a larger emphasis on what Nene can do in the halfcourt. You saw things get very slow in the fourth quarter Sunday…and Washington absolutely owned that fourth quarter.
Against the Spread
Not much of note there. Washington is now six games over .500 counting the playoffs…but that’s barely above break even when you factor in the vigorish. Chicago has hurt backers, down about four units counting vigorish after the playoff loss.
Las Vegas Line:
Chicago by 5, total of 181.5
Chicago closed at -4.5 in their Sunday loss. The market tends to bet the bounce back, which is why the line got HIGHER even though Chicago’s weaknesses were exposed. Will they make the right adjustments? Will they find a way to get Nene in foul trouble and take him off the floor? Will Washington throw in the towel early knowing they only have to win their home games from this point forward to advance? A tricky game for handicappers because so many different factors are in play.
The early word as we go to press is that Washington/Chicago will be included as either a side or a total in JIM HURLEY’S Tuesday Night NBA PARLAY. We’re also looking at Brooklyn/Toronto and Atlanta/Indiana of course. You can purchase the final slate right here at the website with your credit card during the day Tuesday. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about NBA/MLB combination packages when you call.
Our series of NBA preview continues tomorrow with Mavericks/Spurs. Here’s the schedule through the week that will finish our trip through all eight first round matchups:
Wednesday: Dallas at San Antonio Game Two
Thursday: Indiana at Atlanta Game Three
Friday: Toronto at Brooklyn Game Three
Saturday: Miami at Charlotte Game Three
Sunday: LA Angels at NY Yankees in the MLB on ESPN
Sunday’s are reserved for Sunday Night MLB on ESPN. We’ll pick up with the NBA again next Monday, focusing on the most important matchup each night through the completion of the first round.
It’s already CRUNCH TIME for the Chicago Bulls and other Game One home floor losers. It’s always CASH TIME for customers of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. Be sure you GET THE MONEY!