The Bulls snapped a seven-game losing streak on Friday, beating the Timberwolves by a solitary point. The 114-113 victory came on the back 35 points from Zach LaVine.
The win moved their record to 19-35. They are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings, though they are just three games ahead of the last-placed Hawks.
On Saturday they host the Wizards, who are coming off an overtime loss to the Celtics. Otto Porter Jr was important with 27 points and 11 rebounds in that game, while Bradley Beal had 18 points and nine assists. Washington stayed in fourth place in the east with the loss, but with a record of 31-24 are just 1.5 games ahead of Miami in seventh place.
Three keys to the game
Wizards without Wall - Wall has now missed seven consecutive games with a knee injury, and the Wizards have thus far handled it with aplomb. They won their first five games without him, but have now lost two on the trot after defeats at the hands of the Celtics and the 76ers. Tomas Satoransky has been performing admirably in his place.
Back-to-back Bulls - This will be the second game in two days for the Bulls, who have so far played nine back-to-backs this season. On the second leg of these back-to-backs, they have struggled, splitting these games 2-7.
Containing Beal - Beal hasn’t dominated the scoreboard like he might be expected to in the absence of his backcourt partner, though he has lifted his passing game, averaging almost 6.5 assists since Wall stopped playing. Last time these sides met, he was a key reason for the Wizards victory, scoring 39 points, hitting seven three’s, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out nine assists.
Matchup to watch
Bradley Beal vs Zach LaVine - LaVine has been missing from the Bulls lineup for much of the season as he recovered from an ACL injury, and his return has been a welcome one. As expected, he started slowly, but has really lifted his game in the last week or so. His last four games have yielded an average of 26.5 points, and he made a number of key free throws down the stretch against Minnesota yesterday. Beal was a late call-up to the all-star game on the back of a season which has seen him put up 23.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals a night, all of which are career highs.
Chicago Bulls predicted starting lineup
PG - Jerian Grant | SG - Zach LaVine | SF - Justin Holiday | PF - Lauri Markkanen | C - Robin Lopez
Washington Wizards predicted starting lineup
PG - Tomas Satoransky | SG - Bradley Beal | SF - Otto Porter Jr | PF - Markieff Morris | C - Marcin Gortat
Beal has struggled a little in his career against the Bulls, despite his dominant performance when they last met. His 16.9 points a night in 16 games is nearly two points below his career average, and he shoots just 35.2% from 3-point range in these games. His averages of 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists are around his career average. He does, however, manage to grab almost 1.5 steals a night in these matchups.
The Bulls have been given just a five-point head start, and that won’t be enough against a team which is significantly better. Washington should be able to take this game out relatively comfortably, and will be able to cover the five point handicap the oddsmakers have given them.
Despite their impressive win over Minnesota, the Bulls won’t have enough firepower to get over the line in this one. With their young unit facing the likes of Beal and his able support cast, they will be overrun. Their young legs will be fatigued after a gruelling game yesterday, and they have shown throughout the season that they struggle on the second leg of back-to-backs.
Beal will put up 30+ points as Washington take this one out. They will leave Chicago with a 108-98 victory.
The game will be broadcast locally on WGN-TV and NBCSWA. Tip-off is at 8:00pm ET.(Photo credit: Keith Allison)