With a key matchup in the Eastern Conference playoff race
upcoming, the Chicago Bulls can’t afford to look past a Washington
Wizards team riding their longest home winning streak in six
Despite their season-long run of injuries, the Bulls will try to
continue their recent push toward home-court advantage in the first
round on Tuesday night when they visit Washington.
Chicago (40-32) blew a late 12-point advantage in a last-second
loss at Dallas on Saturday, but rebounded the following night by
rallying from a 13-point deficit to slip past struggling Detroit
95-94 at home.
“We dodged a bullet,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We were
fortunate, got out of a hole. … We were just trying to find a way
in the end.”
Thibodeau’s club has won four of five overall to move within 1
1/2 games of fourth-place Brooklyn in the East and has a critical
showdown on Thursday when it visits the Nets.
The Bulls, however, continue to be without Derrick Rose (knee),
Joakim Noah (right foot), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) and
Richard Hamilton (lower back), though Thibodeau said Noah and
Belinelli are day to day.
Noah nearly had a triple-double with nine points, 10 assists and
17 rebounds in an 86-73 loss in Washington on Jan. 26, while
Belinelli scored 17 in an 87-77 home win on Dec. 29.
Luol Deng has given the club a spark lately, averaging 27.0
points while hitting 11 of 23 from beyond the arc in his last three
The Bulls have won four of five in Washington, but have dropped
six of eight on the road overall heading into this contest.
It doesn’t figure to get any easier for Chicago as they take on
a Wizards team looking to extend its longest home winning streak
since a 10-game run during the 2006-07 season.
Washington claimed its seventh straight home victory with a
109-92 victory over Toronto on Sunday and has won those games by an
average of 13.5 points.
While the Wizards (27-46) have been all but eliminated from the
playoff picture, they are within three games of Philadelphia for
ninth in the East in part due to their surge at home.
“We’re playing for something that’s bigger than just nine games
left,” forward Martell Webster said. “Fighting for that ninth spot
because for us, that’s fuel for next year.”
John Wall, who had 18 points, 10 assists and just one turnover
on Sunday, has played a key role in the team’s recent success at
home. He’s averaged 27.8 points on 63.5 percent shooting and 9.5
assists in the last four games in Washington.
The Wizards also received a huge lift with the surprise return
of Bradley Beal. The rookie guard, who missed five games with an
ankle injury, finished with 24 points off the bench and hit 6 of 9
from 3-point range against the Raptors.
Beal may have a difficult time building off that performance
since he’s totaled just 18 points on 7-of-25 shooting in two games
against the Bulls.
Although Nene (knee) will be a game-decision for the Wizards,
center Emeka Okafor had 15 points and 16 rebounds in the January
Washington has shot 50.0 percent from the field over its last
six games at the Verizon Center, averaging 108.2 points and hitting
52.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The Bulls, though, have limited the Wizards to just 79.8 points
per game on 38.1 percent shooting in their last eight games in this