By Rich Dubroff
WASHINGTON -- It was the subject no one on the Bulls really wanted to talk about.
It’s possible that the Bulls and Washington Wizards could meet in the playoffs two weeks from now.
But after Saturday night’s 96-78 Bulls win, there was no looking ahead.
“Once the playoffs start, it’s a totally different game. Every team’s mindset is different. The strategies are different. This is the regular season, so we’re going to put this behind us and get ready for the playoffs,” D.J. Augustin said.
In January, Washington won two games from the Bulls in four days. The Wizards had Nene then, but he’s been missing since suffering a left knee injury on Feb. 23.
“We lost to these guys at home. We lost to them here. It was just getting this win tonight. We’re not looking forward to the playoffs just yet, but we wanted to come out tonight and do it for ourselves,” Augustin said.
It was another terrific night on the court for Joakim Noah, but a bad one off it. Before he began his postgame interview, Noah wanted one topic off limits: Florida’s loss to Connecticut in the Final Four earlier Saturday night.
“No questions about the Gators, sensitive issue,” Noah joked.
He then grew serious. When asked about the differences between the team that lost to Washington in January and the current model. Noah paused, hemmed and hawed and finally said:
“I think we’re a confident group right now. You definitely learn from your experiences. Yeah, our team is better. We’ve gone through a lot. We’re playing good basketball. We’re confident and we’re ready for these playoffs.”
Of course, those two losses were just after the team traded Luol Deng to Cleveland on Jan. 7, but since then the Bulls have gone 31-14.
Washington hasn’t been in the postseason since 2008, the last year the Bulls missed them. Noah says playing after the regular season is different.
“Every team is a tough matchup in the playoffs. It’s not a one-game series. Everybody knows everybody’s sets. It comes down to will. Whether it’s Washington, whether it’s Brooklyn, Charlotte, Toronto, all those teams, it’s going to be a tough battle,” Noah said.
Taj Gibson has played in the postseason each of his four years in the league.
“We’re all in to just win games. We’re trying to stay in the third seed. We’re trying to win games, just trying to keep winning games. We just didn’t like the feeling of losing to this team twice,” Gibson said. “It doesn’t matter who we see. It’s all about playing our style. That’s the one thing about us; we’re ready for the grind it out style. We’re ready for the playoff-style game.”