CHICAGO -- The first playoff game for the Wizards in six years takes place Sunday, and just how do they match up with the Chicago Bulls going into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series from United Center? It's not as lopsided as many think.
The Wizards have a starting backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal that is more offensively capable than Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler. Wall (23 of 46) and Beal (19 of 38) shot 50% from the field in three meetings, two of which they won, vs. one of the NBA's most feared defensive teams. Butler is noted for his defense and will be tasked with stopping Beal from having game-changing explosions. That could leave Wall on Hinrich, 34, which would be a difficult cover as he'd need help. If Wall makes the right decisions off the help, then it could lead to easy baskets for everyone else. Edge: Wizards
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Nene should be back in the starting lineup after a left knee ligament strain. Trevor Ariza is past his illness and is hitting his three-point shot again. Even though Carlos Boozer doesn't play much in the fourth quarter, that rotation is working for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Mike Dunleavy, Ariza's counterpart at small forward, is a solid if unspectacular complementary scorer. When it comes to defense, even though the Bulls are elite as a group, it's no contest when it comes to individual play. Edge: Wizards
Marcin Gortat called Joakim Noah "the best center in the game" recently. Noah does it all for Chicago, one-on-one defense, passing from the high post, running the floor, team defense and a knuckleball mid-range shot that has to be respected. Gortat has 37 double-doubles for the season and has flourished in the offense when Nene was lost for 21 games. Noah can score six points in a game and be the MVP because of all the other ways he impacts the game. His aggression never dips. Gortat can be prone to lulls. Edge: Bulls
Chicago has D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson. That's pretty much it. Nazr Mohammed is their next big man off the bench. Augustin torched Washington for 25 points in 30 minutes the last time they met. However, the Wizards have far more options with Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Martell Webster, Drew Gooden and Trevor Booker. Harrington and Booker have been playing his best basketball of the season. Beal flourishes in the backcourt when he plays with Miller and the second unit. Edge: Wizards
Thibodeau has won 66% of his games as coach and is in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. This is Wizards coach Randy Wittman's first time here in his eight-year career and he has won just 37% of his. He has had some questionable rotations, stuck with starters who aren't producing too long and appears to have forgotten to re-insert his hot hand quickly enough. Edge: Bulls