The Chicago Bulls were supposed to die. Derrick Rose suffered his second season ending injury in as many years and management traded away Luol Deng midseason for cap relief. But coach Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah wouldn't let the Bulls sink. Noah emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate, racking up triple doubles and serving as the team's anchor on both offense and defense.
Now the Bulls are in a familiar place as they hide in the middle of the Eastern Conference as legitimate threats to the Eastern Conference crown. But they'll have to first get past the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards made significant strides on the offensive side of the ball -- jumping up from last in the NBA in 2012-13 to 17th, per Basketball-Reference -- and their defense remained in the top 10. They added Marcin Gortat before the season and Andre Miller and Drew Gooden midseason. Gortat has patrolled the paint and served as a pick-and-roll partner for John Wall while Miller provides valuable stability off the bench. Gooden has morphed into a stretch four gunner.
This is a series of defense as both teams have made their money on that end of the floor. Chicago is the better defensive team (second in the NBA, per NBA.com/stats), but Washington is almost four points per 100 possession better on offense. Game 1 starts on Sunday. This is how you can watch it:
TV schedule: TNT; 7 p.m. ET
Announcing crew: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Tracy Wolfson
Local: CSN, CSN-Chicago, ESPN 1000 AM, WFED-AM 1500