Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Wizards on CSN

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Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Wizards on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Wizards on Friday night on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Beat another good team? The Bulls have nearly identical records against teams above .500 and below .500. Entering Friday's game in D.C., the Bulls are 15-17 against teams with winning records and 17-19 against teams with losing records. The Wizards are 41-26 so that means... nothing?

2. Life without Wade. Dwyane Wade has already missed games this season, but now the Bulls know he won't be back for the rest of the regular season. Wade's absence is a blow to the Bulls' flickering playoff hopes. Knowing the future Hall of Famer won't be in the lineup means there could be more minutes for the likes of Denzel Valentine.

3. Final meeting with the Wizards. The Bulls won the first meeting with the Wizards this season, a 106-95 win in November at the United Center. Jimmy Butler scored 37 points in that one. The Wizards won the next two, a 107-97 road win in December and a 101-99 home win in January when Butler and Wade both sat out.

4. Time to turn things around. Since winning five out of six, a run which featured wins against Toronto, Boston, Cleveland and Golden State, to bring their record to 31-30, the Bulls have slumped badly. The Bulls have lost six of seven to cancel out the good run. Playing at a team which is currently third in the Eastern Conference isn't exactly a recipe for a slump buster, but the Bulls need wins to get back in the playoff hunt.

5. Surging Wizards. Since a slow start to the season the Wizards have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Wizards were 16-18, but won 23 of the next 29 games to rise up the conference standings. Heading into Friday's game, however, the Wizards have lost two in a row. It's just the third time in 2017 the Wizards have lost consecutive games. The Wizards haven't lose three in a row since November, a streak that included a loss to the Bulls.

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Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

As Jimmy Butler sat with his sweat-soaked jersey still attached to his body, Dwyane Wade yelled out that all the hot water was gone from the TD Garden showers, a fitting end to a miserable night.

Butler hadn't yet gone to the showers because electrodes were attached to his knees, but it was the left one that prevented him from being as aggressive as he should have been in the Bulls' 108-97 loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night.

Butler's 30-foot buzzer-beater to end the third quarter seemed to indicate a harbinger of things to come, giving the Bulls an 81-79 lead. A fourth-quarter explosion likely would have sent the Bulls back to Chicago with a 3-2 lead and a chance to clinch the series at home Friday night.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn't even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn't elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

"I'm good. Everyone's a little nicked up; I'll be all right," Butler said in the locker room.

Going 6-for-15 overall, one would have thought Butler was conserving his energy, but he clearly didn't have his usual spunk. It was partly the reason Dwyane Wade took over more, with 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but having Butler around could have helped close a game that got away from them in a four-minute stretch where the Bulls lost their composure.

Wade has had to play through his share of injuries during his career, and although he wouldn't divulge whatever Butler was going through, it seemed as if they had a conversation about managing his body.

"We've talked about it. When you've had any limitations no matter what, at this time of year people are banged-up," Wade said. "It's expected. But we have to do a better job of putting him in different places on the basketball floor.

"I don't know exactly what he's going through or what he's feeling, but it's tough when you are, and you try to beat a guy from halfcourt to the rim, or three defenders. So we've got to a better job of finding areas for him to work without having to work so hard. That's on all of us."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue analyze Game 5 between the Bulls and Celtics, how the Bulls can correct their mistakes for Friday night and whether Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade have enough left in the tank to win two straight against the top seed in the Eastern Conference.