Seven months on, don’t think the Chicago Bulls have forgotten how the merciless Washington Wizards bundled them out of the playoffs.
But it figures to be a wholly different match-up when the Eastern Conference rivals face off tonight in D.C.
For one thing, the current Bulls have Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and an impressive 12-4 record on the road that has pushed them into fourth in the East standings, just one place behind their hosts.
And they have been transformed as an offensive force, notching 106.7 points per during a 13-game stretch that has seen Chicago win nine times.
A lot of the focus has been on Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 22.3 points over his last 10 outings, including a strong push in Monday’s franchise-record 49 in the fourth in a victory over Toronto.
Sure, the Bulls can still defend – but these are not the grind them into submission Bulls of the recent past.
The key differential remains Rose, who has fluctuated between brilliant and average during the 17 appearances so far in his comeback tour. However it’s a vast contrast that the former MVP scores at a clip of 19.6 in wins and 12.6 in losses, underlining his influence – good and bad.
Guided by his star’s health, coach Tom Thibodeau has lessened Rose’s workload on the second night of back-to-backs to date, with his minutes dropping by 4.6 and his offensive rating by a huge 12.7. On days like these, that has to hurt.
Do they deserve to be 8.50 third favourites for the title? Possibly. Are they very much a work in progress? No question, until we know exactly what their chief playmaker can consistently produce.
Washington won eight out of nine before their Sunday’s defeat to Phoenix, and with 13-3 mark on their own floor, the odds are against Chicago delivering on the win at 2.33.
And with the Wizards giving up a healthy 97.1 per game, it may be one of those evenings when the Bulls run out of steam.
Best bet: Back Washington on a handicap of -5.5 at 2.23 against Chicago.