CHICAGO — The plane ride from Washington late Tuesday night was much more lively after the Wizards earned their first win of the season. And upon their arrival at United Center, they had more reason to feel enthused when league most valuable player Derrick Rose was seen walking through the arena with a walking boot on his left foot.
Moments before tipoff the Chicago Bulls’ point guard was ruled out with a sprained left big toe, giving the Wizards hope that their best night of the season wasn’t going to be just a one-game fluke. But any excitement about possibly winning two games in a row — and the first road game of the season — were effectively lost in the final five minutes of a 78-64 loss at United Center.
The Wizards not only didn’t make their shots, but the Bulls ensured they wouldn’t have the opportunity to take shots, either. Chicago turned the missed baskets into rebound opportunities to melt the clock, and the Wizards set a new franchise record for scoring futility with 64 points. The previous low was 65, set on Dec. 13, 2002, against New Jersey.
“It was just tough out there,” Nick Young said after scoring just five points on 2-for-11 shooting.
The Wizards (1-8) thought they had hit a low point offensively on Sunday, they scored a previous season low of 72 points against Minnesota. But on the road against the league’s stingiest defense, they were putrid, shooting a season-low 31 percent from the field.
“I thought our defense was active and we got some good looks offensively, but just couldn’t put anything in,” Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said. “Part of it is that [the Bulls] are a very good defensive team. We struggle offensively anyway to shoot 40 percent.”
The Wizards could have used the excuse that they were playing on the second of back-to-back games, but the Bulls were playing their third game in three nights.
But they certainly had some concerns on the offensive end. Andray Blatche played the night before in a reserve role despite soreness in his right shoulder, but he was on the training table having it wrapped up in ice as his teammates were warming up. He was a late-game scratch and could be out a few more games.
With Blatche sidelined, the Wizards didn’t have much offense in reserve. Aside from Jordan Crawford with a team-high 14 points, the rest of the Wizards’ bench players produced just eight points.
Saunders went back with the same starting lineup as the night before against Toronto but the ball movement was not as crisp — and neither was the ability to make shots.
The Bulls got back in transition, limiting the Wizards’ opportunities to capitalize with fast-break points. And when the Wizards were in halfcourt sets, they struggled to find the open man — or the open man just missed.
What helped them stay competitive was that the Bulls were just as awful offensively. After three quarters, neither team had shot better than 35 percent from the floor.
Young received interest from the Bulls during free agency, but the team elected to go with Richard Hamilton instead. But if Young was hoping to make the Bulls regret passing on him, he certainly didn’t leave the best impression, often forcing up contested jumpers and shooting early in the shot clock.
“I try not to put that much pressure on myself, going into a game. I knew they was going to throw everything at me,” Young said. “After I missed a couple, I was trying to get some things going. I wouldn’t say force it, but I was trying to get some things going. That’s what I’m here to do. I just have to play better.”
John Lucas III filled in admirably for Rose. He was aggressive, set up his teammates and nearly had a triple double in his first career start, with a game-high 25 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists.
“We didn’t let our guard down,” said John Wall, who finished with 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds. “When you are playing point guard and get that many minutes, you’re going to get a lot of shots. He did a good job running the team.”
Trevor Booker (eight points, 10 rebounds) made a jumper with 5 minutes 2 seconds remaining to bring the Wizards within five points, but they didn’t have an opportunity to get much closer. “They had the ball most of the time after that, off of offensive rebounds,” Booker said.
After Young missed a jumper with 3:39 remaining, the Bulls had a possession where they had five offensive rebounds, concluding with a dunk by reserve Omer Asik to give the Bulls a 75-64 lead with about two minutes remaining.
“We got worn down at the end of the game,” Saunders said. “They especially pummeled us on the last possession.”
Only three Wizards scored in double figures. JaVale McGee surpassed 400 career blocks, rejecting five shot attempts against the Bulls. He also had 10 points and 14 rebounds.