Someone's Winless Streak Ends Tonight, Handling Beal and Westbrook, Playoff Odds Drop (LOL), and Other Bulls Bullets

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Someone’s Winless Streak Ends Tonight, Handling Beal and Westbrook, Playoff Odds Drop (LOL), and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

It’s a disease, people.

•   Ah, there is nothing quite like an early-season battle of the bums. Two once-perceived Eastern Conference risers have started out as two of the worst teams in the NBA. Both the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls sit winless after their first three games, each struggling to pick up a victory over some rather beatable opponents. The Wizards are coming off two-straight losses to the Magic (there is something metaphorical to be said about the Magic being too powerful for the Wizard), while the Bulls have the Pacers and Warriors to thank for their most recent woes. Each team is trying to adjust to its own newness, and it has surely made for a frustrating start for each respective fan base. Fortunately, one of those fan bases will walk away a little more optimistic tonight. And, unfortunately, I have a feeling that fan base resides primarily on the East coast.

•   The Bulls most recent offensive performance against the Warriors felt more like what we should see moving forward. No, I don’t expect them to score 128 points a night, but their ability to have multiple players carry the scoring load is one of the rare things they could have going for them. In Sunday night’s heartbreaking loss, they did a great job sharing the wealth and promoting better ball movement. The hope would be that they can continue such progress in a matchup against a less-than-superb Wizards defense. On the other hand, we saw what the outcome can look like even when the offense clicks, and it still puts the Bulls in the loss column. If Chicago wants any chance at winning this game, they will have to make far fewer mistakes on the defensive end. Perhaps they surprise me, but I’m all kinds of worried about their ability to do that with two elite guards on the opposite side of the ball.

•   I’m very curious to see how Billy Donovan game plans for these next two matchups against the Wizards. The Bulls don’t have the defensive firepower to handle Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, so the question becomes whether or not you put just put most of your effort into limiting one. The Bulls could play off Westbrook and let him take his shots from long-range. Then, when he decides to break toward the basket, you clog the paint with Carter Jr. as your anchor, hoping his presence evokes a flashback of that time he stuffed Westbrook harder than a turducken. Westbrook likely then kicks out to someone behind the 3-point line, but the Bulls might actually be ok settling for some of those open looks. The Wizards have been “meh” from behind the arc this season, and they don’t necessarily have the most elite shooters along the perimeter (it helps that head coach Scott Brooks has limited sharpshooter Davis Bertans to around 20 minutes a game to start this season).

•   Another era I hope the Bulls can exploit tonight is the free throw margin. While I know we’re only three games into the season, the Wizards have drawn the second-most personal follows per game thus far (25.7). Meanwhile, the Bulls have done surprisingly well in limiting their foul trouble, currently sitting just 8th in PFs per game (19.7). Even better, they’ve proven far more invested in drawing fouls of their own, averaging the 5th-most FTA’s per game and the 2nd-most personal fouls per game. Simply put, when you get to the line, you better control the game.

•   Who should be drawing those fouls for the Bulls? Well, the easy answer is everyone, but one guy I’ll have my eye on is Wendell Carter Jr. The big man had a breakout performance on Sunday night, and he got to the line for eight free throw attempts (which was only one behind the team-leader, Zach LaVine). Wizards center Thomas Bryant has committed five fouls in two of his first three games, so if Carter Jr. can play as shifty and aggressive as he did on Sunday, he could get his opposing big man in foul trouble yet again.

•   The Bulls had an 11 percent chance at making the playoffs on December 22nd. Now, after an 0-3 start, FiveThirtyEight lists Chicago’s chances at just four percent. Yippie!

•   Coby White will have his handful tonight with Westbrook and Beal in the backcourt.

•   Is this supposed to make me feel better about the 40-point deficit?

•   Hope Ja is all good. One of the most fun players to watch in the league right now (right behind Coby White *wink*).



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.