This looked like a repeat of what happened almost a year ago, when the Wizards were desperately trying to get over .500 and went to play the depleted Chicago Bulls only to lose. They overcame an 18-point deficit Tuesday to win 101-99 in a game that was much harder than it should’ve been and saved by consecutive jumpers from John Wall.
The Bulls (19-20) were without Jimmy Butler (illness), Dwyane Wade (scheduled rest), and Nikola Mirotic (illness). That didn’t prevent them from getting out to a blazing start fueled by 13 first-half turnovers from Washington (19-18).
Wall (26 points, 14 assists) posted his 23rd double-double, followed by Bradley Beal (19 points), Markieff Morris (19 points), Otto Porter (11 points) and Marcin Gortat (10 points, 12 rebounds). Wall's jump shot with 47.4 seconds tied the score at 99 and at 5.9 seconds set the final margin as the Wizards lead the season series 2-1 with one meeting left vs. Chicago.
For Chicago, Denzel Valentine (19 points) came off the bench to make 5 of 11 three-pointers to set his career-high, followed by Michael Carter-Williams (14 points), Bobby Portis (13 points, seven rebounds), Robin Lopez (14 points, six rebounds), Taj Gibson (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (12 points, six assists)
The Wizards gave up 36 first-quarter points and trailed 61-49 at halftime. They went on a 32-16 run in the third to get back on top but a pair of three-point shots from Portis and Valentine put the Bulls back up 92-85 with 7:35 left.
Before Morris fouled out with four minutes left for Washington, he'd made a pair of three-point shots and had a steal and putback in transition for a 95-92 lead to set the stage. Lopez's two foul shots gave the Bulls a 99-97 lead but the Wall took over from there to close out their third win in a row.
-- Rondo had been 1-for-16 shooting in the first two games vs. the Wizards. He’d been parked on the bench by coach Fred Hoiberg in the previous five games too, losing his starting job to Carter-Williams. Inexplicably, the Wizards were going over the screen on the picks, allowing Rondo to get into the paint and find teammates for easy looks. Instead, the Wizards need to go under, clog the paint to take away the lane and force him into shots he can’t make which is almost everything that isn’t going to the rim. Rondo had eight points and five assists in 13 first-half minutes.
-- With Lopez and Gibson, the Bulls go hard on the offensive glass to clean up misses. That allowed the Wizards to get out in transition for 26 fast-break points. They had 32 in the last meeting.
-- The worst three-point shooting team in the NBA at 31.6%, the Bulls shot 80% in the first half (8-for-10) as Valentine made 4 of 5 and Portis 2-for-2. But a better effort to close out those shooters led the Bulls going 0-for-9 from deep in the third quarter when the Wizards made a run to regain the lead 81-77. Jason Smith and Kelly Oubre, in particular, played a role in that.
--The reserves for the Wizards took a step back. Sheldon McClellan (0 points) was responsible for Rondo’s early flurry as he went over unnecessarily on the screens. Smith (seven points, six rebounds), however, was the best of the bunch. He had modest numbers, but his three points, four rebounds and block in the third quarter factored into the comeback.
--Foul trouble remains an issue for Morris who picked up his fourth foul at 6:32 of the third quarter trying to take a charge from Carter-Williams. He got his third at 9:05 of the second quarter because he got too close to a non-shooter in Rondo and fouled him on the blow by. When Morris fouled out, he cleared out Gibson with an elbow as he tried to sweep through to make an offensive move. He lasted just 22 minutes.