Cold Spell Dooms Wizards

Tyrus Thomas of the Bulls scores 14 points as the Bulls, playing without center Ben Wallace, take care of the Wizards at Verizon Center.
Tyrus Thomas of the Bulls scores 14 points as the Bulls, playing without center Ben Wallace, take care of the Wizards at Verizon Center. (John McDonnell - The Post)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Washington Wizards trailed the Chicago Bulls by nine early in the third quarter last night when center Brendan Haywood grabbed an offensive rebound and passed to Antawn Jamison, who was open on the three-point line.

Jamison took aim, released the shot and watched as the ball rolled around the rim before popping back out. The Bulls scored on the following possession.

That's pretty much how things went for the Wizards. Dreadful second-quarter shooting, late-game breakdowns and timely execution by the Bulls led to a 95-84 Chicago victory at Verizon Center.

That ended a three-game winning streak for the Wizards (13-11) and spoiled excellent performances by Jamison, who posted his 17th double-double of the season (24 points, 12 rebounds) and Caron Butler, who posted his second triple-double of the season (29 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists).

The Wizards squandered a 13-point first-quarter edge by making only 5 of 34 shots during a stretch that covered the second quarter and carried over into the third.

Still, the Wizards took an 80-79 lead when Butler made a running jumper with 4 minutes 11 seconds left, but the Bulls scored the next 12 and got their fifth win in the last 16 regular season visits to Washington.

Poor ball movement, questionable shot selection, a lack of energy, bad luck -- all of that was on display for the Wizards.

"They put pressure on you but I was mostly worried about our execution, not necessarily making shots," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "I like us to make shots, but I was looking for my guards to execute the offense. There were some breakdowns, some sluggish starts to possessions and we just didn't have a flow."

It didn't help that the Wizards had two point guards -- Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels -- watching from the bench with injuries and a third -- Mike Wilks -- trying to get his bearings after signing with the team in the morning.

DeShawn Stevenson and rookie Nick Young, who made his second straight start in place of Daniels, combined to make 4 of 20 shots and totaled five turnovers and four assists.

The Bulls (9-14) pressured Stevenson, Young and reserve Roger Mason Jr. throughout and converted 18 Washington turnovers into 19 points.

One night after losing at home to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Bulls won even though starting center Ben Wallace was a late scratch with a sore foot. Rookie center Aaron Gray posted 10 points and 10 rebounds, while forward Tyrus Thomas finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 22 points and Luol Deng added 20, but the real key was a defense that kept the Wizards out of rhythm.

"As the game went on, we gradually played better and better," Bulls Coach Scott Skiles said. "We got good activity out of our young big guys, we made some good decisions, we played good defense and we were able to pull away."

The game's momentum swung Chicago's way for good with 2:19 remaining. The Wizards trailed 84-80 when Jamison drove and had his shot blocked by Thomas. However, Jamison felt he was fouled by Gray and was further shocked when referee Courtney Kirkland called him for a foul when his momentum carried him into Thomas after the block.

After Thomas made two free throws, Jamison tried to drive for a layup but had the ball knocked loose, and the Bulls turned that mistake into a layup by Deng. Jamison again felt that he was fouled and let everyone know about it, including referee Scott Foster, who listened for a minute before hitting Jamison with his first technical foul of the season.

"It's always hard because you play so hard throughout the game and you have emotions and energy going," Jamison said. "You'd hope that players would decide the outcome, but throughout the season you are going to have games like that where you feel that calls don't go your way. You just have to fight through it and put it behind you."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company