WASHINGTON — While the Eastern Conference-contending Washington Wizards try solving their recent defensive woes, the Chicago Bulls must figure out how to continue their playoff push without Dwyane Wade.
The Bulls (32-36) announced Thursday that Wade will miss the remainder of the season because of a fracture in his right elbow. The 12-time All-Star and Chicago’s second-leading scorer (18.6 points per game) suffered the injury in Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Results from an MRI revealed the worst and ended Wade’s first season playing for his hometown team prematurely.
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“It sucks,” Wade told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s not the way I would have written it. I’ll just move past it, get better and no surgery, so that’s one thing I’m happy about. I’ll just rehab and hopefully get on the court at the end of this year. If not this year, at some point next year.”
Chicago enters the fourth and final meeting against Washington (41-26) in 10th place in the Eastern Conference but only a game behind the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Wizards are battling for one of the East’s top seeds, but fell 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics after suffering a rare home loss. Washington led the Dallas Mavericks by 12 points in the second half but lost 112-107 on Wednesday.
Scoring isn’t the issue. Led by guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards are fifth in the NBA at 109 points per game and fourth in 3-point shooting ( 37.7 percent). The recent issues involve stopping the other side from keeping the scoreboard humming.
Wall left briefly late in the second quarter during Wednesday’s loss after suffering a sprained left foot, but he started the second half. Wall is listed as probable but expected to play Friday night.
Dallas shot 50.6 percent from the field and made 14 of 32 on 3-point attempts, including 7 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
Their 39 points in the fourth quarter were the most for the Mavericks in any game this season, but the not the most points allowed by the Wizards in a quarter this week. Minnesota scored 41 in the first quarter as the Timberwolves defeated Washington 119-104 on Monday.
“We were letting guys have open 3’s, layups,” Beal said. “Pretty much whatever they want. It was our defense that lost the game.”
The loss to the Timberwolves prevented the Wizards from the first 5-0 road trip in franchise history. During that stretch, which included two overtime periods, Washington allowed 121 points per game.
“The one thing I love about coaching this team is we always figure it out,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “Everybody has to do their job and everybody is responsible for losses and wins. We have to figure it out together, but we have to get better defensively.”
Denzel Valentine and Nikola Mirotic will receive larger roles for the Bulls without Wade, but they need a better version of Jimmy Butler. The three-time All-Star is averaging 17.5 points while shooting under 38 percent from the field in 11 games since the All-Star break. For the season, he leads Chicago at 23.2 points per game on 44 percent shooting.
“The biggest thing is just to continue to put him in spots to be successful,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought we got him some really easy looks (Monday in Charlotte) as far as getting in the paint and kicking out.
“He was really aggressive shooting 3s that game, stepping up with no hesitation. He also did a great job attacking closeouts and getting to the rim.”
Washington leads the season series 2-1, including a 101-99 win on Jan. 10.
Chicago is last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 32.4 percent.