The Chicago Bulls went to Washington D.C. without their two best players, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Although the Bulls generally played well throughout, poor possessions and turnovers late allowed the Washington Wizards to escape with the win.
That being said, an extremely strong first half performance made it appear that Chicago might win in Washington without its two star players. Unfortunately, the Wizards managed to capitalize in the second half, outscoring Chicago 32-16 in the third and coming up big in the clutch. The Bulls definitely missed both Butler and Wade in crunch time, where they couldn’t hold onto a late lead.
Here is quarter-by-quarter analysis of the close game!
The game started off with high-scoring by both sides; the ball movement by the Bulls was exquisite, and on the other end, the Wizards looked crisp and took advantage of defensive liabilities like Doug McDermott (who quickly reached two fouls in the first few minutes).
Then, with six minutes left in the quarter, Rajon Rondo made his first appearance back on the court after five straight DNP-CDs (did not play – coach’s decision). Denzel Valentine also returned from his ankle injury after missing three games, and he immediately hit a couple of nice 3-pointers.
The Bulls offense was clearly feeling it; even Taj Gibson hit a corner 3, giving the Bulls a 20-19 lead with 4:30 remaining. After that, the high-scoring continued, but Chicago went on a nice run and finished the quarter with a 36-26 lead.
The Bulls stayed hot heading into the second quarter, and Bobby Portis (another player who hasn’t been seeing many minutes recently) flexed his range by splashing two 3-pointers.
In the middle of the quarter, the Wizards began to inch closer towards the lead, and they brought it to within single digits late. However, Chicago had no ideas of letting that trend continue, and they closed the first half strong, finishing with a 61-49 lead.
The Bulls offense looked fluid and smooth; something head coach Fred Hoiberg has been trying to create all season, and almost everyone on the team was playing exceptional. Chicago finished the half shooting an insane 8-for-10 from beyond the arc! And yes, this is the same team that is currently averaging and making the least amount of 3-pointers per game in the entire league.
Valentine was definitely the biggest surprise of the half. The 23-year-old rookie scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep. How’s that for making a return statement?
Unfortunately for Chicago, the Wizards came out ready to play in the second half. More accurately, the Bulls didn’t come out ready.
The start of the quarter was very slow for Chicago, and there were several offensive fouls and turnovers. Within the first two minutes, the Wizards already cut the lead down to 60-65. The Bulls had six turnovers in just four minutes of play… two more than the total number of points scored during that time (four).
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal got hot, and he dominated by consistently hitting both open and tough shots. All of a sudden, Washington surged and went on a 19-4 run.
At the end of the third, the Bulls were down 81-77.
It’s all or nothing. This is where the Bulls see if their young players can hold their own without Butler and Wade.
Throughout the quarter, the game remained close; the Bulls took a six-point lead at one point and it looked like the Wizards might have been gassed from coming back in the third, but a few poor shots later by Chicago and all of a sudden it’s 93-92 back to Washington with five minutes left in the game.
Another trey put the Wizards up 95-92, and they were on a 10-0 run. Suddenly, both offenses couldn’t produce or score another bucket until Gibson had a putback and-one with 2:04 remaining.
Crunch time baby! The score was 97-97 with 1:18 remaining, and after Beal had his layup swatted by Gibson, the Bulls came down and took the lead after a pair of free-throws from Robin Lopez.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, that would be the last points they’d put on the board. Instead of ending up with the win, a pair of clutch shots from John Wall gave Washington the win, including a moving mid-range off a screen with just five seconds left in the game.
Overall, it was a tough loss for Chicago, but nobody truly expected them to win the game. The younger players recognized that with Butler and Wade out they would have a rare opportunity to receive minutes, and the best takeaway from tonight is that it was a good learning experience for them.