John Wall takes it to the hoop against the Bulls
The Washington Wizards fell behind at home early tonight against the Chicago Bulls, playing without energy on defense according to assistant coach Sam Cassell. The Wizkids trailed by 10 in the first half and by eight midway through the third quarter, but took control thereafter to secure a narrow win the visiting Chicago Bulls, who fall to 40-33, 6th place in the Eastern Conference. The win improves Washington's record to 28-46 and 23-18 since the return of star point guard John Wall. It is Washington's eighth straight win in the Verizon Center, where the team is 21-17 overall.
The key for the Wizards tonight was, once again, John Wall, who filled up the stat sheet with 27 points [8-17], 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and only one turnover. This is Wall's second straight game with one turnvoer, indicating the young star may be overcoming a problem that has plagued him for most of his first three years in the NBA.
The Wizards struggled on offense tonight when Wall was not in the game, reminding me of the first 33 games of the season, when the Wizards were easily the worst offensive team in the league
The Bulls were scoring almost at will in the first quarter and quickly jumped out to a 14-4 lead behind PF Carlos Boozer [19 points, 12 rebounds] and center Nazr Muhammad. However, after a timeout, Wall led the team back with 8 consecutive points to cut the Chicago lead to 18-16. However, Chicago led 24-18 after the first quarter and Washington's offense bogged down with Wall on the bench. Nene and Wall came off the bench midway thru the second quarter to get Washington back in the game, but Chicago still led 49-42 going into halftime.
The third quarter belonged to the Wizards, though, and John Wall, in particular. The Bulls led 62-54 with about five and a half minutes left in the third quarter when Wall took over, scoring13 of his 27 points in the third and putting Washington ahead for the first time 65-64 with 3:38 left in the period. The teams battled back and forth, with Wall trying to put the Wizards up for good and Boozer refusing to let him do it when some slick outside shooting and unstoppable moves and finishes in the paint.
The key to the game was in that big run the Wizards started midway thru the third, when the Bulls led 62-54. From then on the Wizards outscored Chicago 38-24 to secure the narrow home victory.
The game was still anybody's to take in the fourth quarter, with the Wizards clinging to a 70-69 lead at the start of the final 12 minutes. Both teams went ice cold from the field, going over four minutes without a field goal. The Bulls looked like they might come back and take the lead from a Wizards team that was alternating turnovers and badly missed shots on offense. However, AJ Price [13 points, 5-7 FG, 3-4 3FG] came off the bench in place of an ineffective Bradley Beal [8 points, 3-11 FG, 5 reb] and calmly sank 2 of his 3 3-pointers. In all, Price scored 8 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, providing the team with the back court scoring punch it otherwise lacked in the final 12 minutes.
Trevor Ariza also knocked down a 3-pointer and Washington's scoring punch returned as the Bulls repeatedly left open shooters so they could collapse on John Wall, who penetrated at will and made 11 of his 13 free throws. With 1:40 left Price sank a fadeaway jumper to put Washington up 86-84 and then Wall fed Nene down low, who fed Emeka Okafor, who slammed the ball down, putting Washington up 88-84 with 46 seconds left.
The Wizards got a couple of stops, the Bulls missed 4 straight free throws and were forced to foul Trevor Ariza with 8 seconds left. With Washington leading 88-86, it was essential Ariza hit both free throws, which he did, giving Washington a 4-point lead. The Bulls missed a desperation shot and Ariza secured the rebound for the win with less than one second left on the clock.
The Wizards play next on Wednesday against the 27-47 Toronto Raptors.