Nothing builds confidence like a winning streak, and the Wizards should be feeling sky-high as they take on the Bulls tonight at home on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with tipoff between these two Eastern Conference foes. Following the action, stay with CSN for Bulls Postgame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Will Perdue, where we bring you highlights, reaction from Tom Thibodeau and analysis.
The Wizards began 2014 on the wrong foot, losing three straight home games to Dallas, Toronto and Golden State. They got back on track with road wins at Charlotte and New Orleans but scored a measly 66 points at Indiana two days later to drop to 16-18. A home loss at Houston dropped them to 16-19, but Randy Wittman's group has strung together a pair of impressive wins to once again have a shot at getting back to .500, where they were when the calendar flipped two weeks ago (14-14).
Those two most recent wins came on the road against a Bulls team that had won five straight and hadn't allowed a 100-point opponent in seven straight and against the defending-champion Miami Heat, in which they led by as many as 34 points and eventually won 114-97.
Al Horford is out for the season in Atlanta, Toronto has found new life after trading black hole Rudy Gay and Chicago's future is unclear after trading Luol Deng to the Cavaliers for cap relief and draft picks. With John Wall riding a hot hand, Bradley Beal back in the lineup and Nene playing as well as he has all season, there's an argument to be made that the Wizards are the Eastern Conference's third-best team, behind Indiana and Miami.
We documented earlier in the week that Wall's passing acumen has made him a complete player, and Beal can't be forgotten as a large part of Washington's successes. The Wizards wisely shut down the 20-year-old after he complained of leg discomfort — the same leg that cost him the final month of his rookie season with a stress injury.
X-rays were negative, but the Wizards weren't going to take any chances. Beal missed nine games, and Washington struggled to a 4-5 record, held afloat by Trevor Ariza's and Martell Webster's improved play in Beal's absence. And with the former University of Florida shooting guard back in the lineup, the Wizards have gone 9-6 in his first 15 games back.
In that span, Beal has averaged 14.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists as he works his way back into the rotation. And he's been more comfortable in the past two weeks, averaging 16.7 points on 43-percent shooting in his last six games (the Wizards have gone 4-2).
He's averaged just 29 minutes in that span, 11 minutes per game fewer than the 40 he averaged before the injury, but he's been solid while the Wizards play it safe with their shooting guard of the future. He'll be in action tonight, looking to get Washington back to .500 for the first time since New Year's Eve.
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