The Washington Wizards will begin a seven-game set against the Bulls on Sunday (you can check out all of CSN's coverage here) in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Wizards won 44 regular season games, averaged 100.7 points per game and grabbed 42.4 rebounds per game. Those are the raw numbers, but digging further we can find out plenty more about the team the Bulls will host this weekend. Here are a few:
In his fourth NBA season, John Wall averaged a career-high 19.3 points per game while playing all 82 games. Even further, the 23-year-old Wall finished the regular season with career-bests in assists (8.8 per game), steals (1.8 per game), 3-pointers (1.3 per game; 35.1 percent) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.44). He even added a pair of triple-doubles, one more than he tallied in his first three seasons combined. Wall rightfully earned his first All-Star Game appearance this season and led the Wizards to a 43-38 record, their first season with more than 29 wins and first playoff appearance since 2008. Washington ranked 16th in points per game (100.7) and Wall was a major reason why. His durability, lightning-quick first step and passing acumen has made him one of the top point guards in the game.
The Wizards dealt Emeka Okafor (more accurately, Emeka Okafor's contract) to the Phoenix Suns during the offseason in exchange for Marcin Gortat, and the Polish Hammer's role in Washington's role has been invaluable. The Wizards were tied for ninth in defensive efficiency this season (102.4 points per 100 possessions), and while the likes of Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal help it's been Gortat who has made the biggest difference. Gortat started 80 games this season, averaging nearly 33 minutes per game. When he was on the court, opponents scored 102.2 points per 100 possessions; in the 15 minutes per game Gortat was on the bench, opponents' efficiency skyrocketed to 109.7, a number which would have led the league (the Clippers led the NBA this season with an off. efficiency rating of 109.4). Simply put, Gortat and his 7 defensive rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game are the anchor to the Wizards slowing down opposing offenses.
[WATCH ON CSN WASHINGTON: Keys for the Wizards]
Live-ball turnovers are important for obvious reasons: it gets a team going the other way with the opposition unable to get back defensively and more times than not it becomes a transition opportunity for the offense. And in that category, the Wizards are above-average, grabbing 8.1 steals per game (11th in NBA). But in terms of dead-ball turnovers, the Wizards get much better, forcing 16 total turnovers per game, ranked fourth in the NBA. It may not result in steals, but the Wizards defense is forcing bad passes, charges, etc. that are helping a top-10 defense.
Trevor Ariza's 3-point shooting has been an incredible story. In his first six seasons in the NBA, he made nine triples in 43 attempts (21 percent). But in 2008-09 he found his outside stroke, hitting 61 3-pointers in 82 games with the Lakers. Including that season, Ariza went on to make 1.2 3-pointers per game at a 33-percent clip the next five seasons. But in 2013-14, his second season with the Wizards, he's been lights out from beyond the arc. In 77 games he made 180 3-pointers at a 40.7 percent clip, the latter number of which ranked 19th in the NBA; his 180 3-pointers were 14th, three more than James Harden and 13 more than Carmelo Anthony. He doesn't get much notice because of Wall's and Beal's scoring, but he's a deadly shooter who can go off at a moment's notice. In three games against the Bulls this season he made just 3 of 11 triples.
It's not groundbreaking analysis to point out that a team's second best scorer shot worse in team losses than he did in wins, but Bradley Beal's numbers are telling. The second-year shooting guard played in 77 games, and in 33 Wizards losses he shot just 38 percent from the floor, including 35 percent from beyond the arc. In 40 wins Beal shot nearly 46 percent from the field, but the most telling statistic is that he made 44.6 percent of his 3-point tries in those victories. Beal and the Wizards are riding a four-game winning streak into the playoffs, and in those contests Beal went 10-for-22 from beyond the arc (45.5 percent). Beal's 3-point shooting seems to be a barometer for how well the Wizards offense is playing, so keep an eye out for his outside numbers.
The Wizards have been a solid defensive team all year, and they're doing some of their best work as the game goes on. By quarter, the Wizards' opponents are scoring 25.5 (1st), 24.9 (2nd), 23.7 (3rd) and 23.4 (4th) points per game. Those 23.4 points per game allowed in the fourth quarter is ranked fourth in the NBA; for perspective, the Bulls rank first in fourth quarter scoring defense at 22.1 points per game, so expect some intense, lockdown defense in the final stanzas of each contest.