After Sunday afternoon's hard-fought 97-93 defeat to the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls responded with a 98-88 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday night at Verizon Center. The Bulls improved to 18-5 this season, 9-4 on the road.
Playing without both Rip Hamilton (thigh, groin) and Luol Deng (wrist), the Bulls had four starters in double figures against the lowly Wizards, who fell to 4-17. Derrick Rose missed a pair of crucial free throws in well-documented fashion on Sunday and told reporters before the game that he would "go crazy" versus a Wizards team that features young point guard John Wall. Seemingly a man on a mission, Rose did just that, dropping 35 points, eight assists, three blocks and two steals while shooting 10-for-20 from the field and 14-for-15 from the charity stripe in almost 41 minutes of action. Similar to Sunday, Rose controlled the game for the most part and dazzled the crowd with an array of shots -- from acrobatic floaters and layups to tough jumpers. His counterpart, Wall, had eight first-quarter points but ended up with 20, missing 9-of-16 shots, and turned it over four times. Rose, too, had issues handling the ball, with five miscues.
Hamilton aggravated his right thigh bruise and sore left groin against the Heat and, as expected, missed his 12th contest of the year. Deng, who suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist on Jan. 21 against the Charlotte Bobcats, missed his fifth straight game but is very close to a return. The 6-foot-9 forward figures to be back in the lineup at some point this week. C.J. Watson returned from a one-game absence due to a sore right wrist against the Wizards and had three assists in seven minutes.
Joakim Noah continued his "upward trend," as coach Tom Thibodeau descibed his starting center's play recently, and stuffed the stat sheet facing another athletic center in JaVale McGee. He posted 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in about 39 minutes. With the Wizards implementing full-court traps throughout the game in hopes of taking the ball out of Rose's hands, especially in the fourth quarter when they made a run, the Bulls put Noah in positions where he could be the facilitator. The Bulls have done that in the past, and it worked beautifully this time as well. The 6-foot-11 big man found Carlos Boozer several times, and the much-maligned forward capitalized, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the final period to go along with eight rebounds. Starting in place of Hamilton, Kyle Korver added 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting from three-point range, including 11 in the second quarter when he found his rhythm and helped extend the Bulls' lead to 51-40 at halftime.
Chicago, which was playing its second game of a nine-game road trip, led the Wizards 26-16 through one quarter of play, the aforementioned 51-40 at intermission and pushed it to 76-59 after three frames. The Bulls did what they had to do: Dismantle a bottom feeder. However, Thibodeau certainly will not be pleased with his team's inability to truly put the game away. The Wizards -- a squad that fired coach Flip Saunders last week and replaced him with Randy Wittman -- went on a 19-10 stretch in the final quarter and were within 86-78 with just under seven minutes left. But the Bulls went on their own run, scoring eight points in a row -- all of which poured in by Boozer -- and essentially put the game away, taking a 94-80 lead with two minutes and 41 seconds to play.
The Bulls shot 45.3 percent from the field for the game, piling up 22 assists on 34 baskets. They held the Wizards to a paltry 40.2 percent shooting, including 3-for-14 from beyond the arc. However, turnovers continue to be an issue for Thibodeau's bunch. They had 19 more on Monday, following a 15-turnover outing against the Heat. Although, the Wizards weren't able to make the visitors pay, managing only 16 fastbreaks points. Nick Young, whom the Bulls targeted in free agency before the season, had 17 points but missed 13-of-20 shots. Washington was also able to ourebound Chicago 44-40, 18-12 on the offensive glass. The Bulls' "Bench Mob" had just eight points and committed seven turnovers.
Still, the Bulls did what they had to do, earning a win to keep them at the top of the Eastern Conference standings in this compressed, 66-game schedule. Rose reached the 30-point plateau for the third consecutive game, while Noah has put up a double-double in five straight, and has grabbed double-digit rebounds in seven in a row.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Tuesday before playing their second straight back-to-back set on Wednesday and Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers (15-6) and New York Knicks (7-13), respectively.