The Washington Wizards enter desperation mode in their quest to make the playoffs when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
Coming off a 3-2 homestand during which they did just enough to keep their slim hopes alive, the Wizards (30-41) find themselves 4.5 games behind the current eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat (34-36).
Miami plays at San Antonio, which has won 11 in a row at home, on Wednesday night.
A Wizards' victory over the 20-win Bulls could get them within three victories of the Heat, who visit Washington on Saturday night.
In order to make that game meaningful, Washington needs to take care of business against Chicago.
The Wizards failed to do so in a 101-92 home loss to the Bulls on Dec. 28, a defeat Washington avenged with a 134-125 win at Chicago last month.
The latter contest featured a head-to-head examination of a trade the clubs had made three days earlier in which Otto Porter went from Washington to Chicago in exchange for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis.
The trade has worked out well for both teams.
Since joining the Wizards, Parker has raised his scoring average (14.8), rebounds (7.4) and shooting percentage (56.0) from his pre-trade marks of 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 47.4 percent for Chicago.
Meanwhile, Portis has made a similar improvement to 14.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 46.7 percent from 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 45.0 percent.
The Wizards, who were 22-31 (.415) on the day of the trade, have gone 8-10 (.444) since.
At the same time, Porter has performed very well for the Bulls, averaging 17.5 points while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 48.8 percent on 3-pointers. He is doubtful, however, for Wednesday night's game because of a right rotator cuff strain.
The Bulls, 12-41 (.226) before the trade, have gone 8-11 (.421) since the swap.
Parker had 20 points off the bench and Portis registered a 10-point, 12-rebound effort as a reserve in the win at Chicago on Feb. 9.
Porter had 17 points for the Bulls.
Chicago is coming off a 116-101 win at Phoenix, one in which Porter sat out to rest his sore shoulder.
Zach LaVine said the pick-up has been a good one for the Bulls.
"He's a knockdown shooter; you can't leave him," he said. "If I drive on his side of the floor, I know pretty much I am going to have an open lane or a one-on-one with the big. Anybody attacks, it's an easy kick-out to an assist every time."
Portis, who played his first 3 1/2 seasons for the Bulls, insists revenge won't be a motivation in his second return visit to Chicago.
"I don't have anything negative to say about anyone in the Chicago Bulls' organization," he recently told reporters. "They're a first-class organization and they do everything the right way. We were a young team. We were the youngest team in the NBA."
--Field Level Media
Bulls game looks like must-win for Wizards