By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 7, 2008
CHICAGO, Dec. 6 -- The Chicago Bulls suffered through a rough 2007-08 season during which they fired a once-successful coach (Scott Skiles) and eventually wound up in the draft lottery. There, they got lucky and landed the No. 1 overall pick and potential rookie of the year in point guard Derrick Rose.
Following Saturday night's 117-110 loss to the new-look Bulls at United Center, the Washington Wizards are headed in a similar direction, yet one without any guarantee of landing a special player like Rose, who finished with an efficient if unspectacular 15 points and eight assists Saturday night.
The Wizards (3-15) fell to 2-5 under Coach Ed Tapscott, who replaced Eddie Jordan on Nov. 24.
The only solace the Wizards could take Saturday night was that they again put up a fight after falling behind by double digits.
One night after losing by two at home to the Los Angeles Lakers when Caron Butler missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer, the Wizards climbed back from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and were down 102-98 following a score by Antawn Jamison with 2 minutes 35 seconds left.
However, the Bulls answered with a three-point play by Drew Gooden and a three-pointer from former Wizard Larry Hughes (24 points).
The Wizards dropped to 0-8 in games decided by seven points or less.
"Same old, same old," said Butler, who led the way with 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists. "Play hard, give effort but come out up short."
Jamison contributed 23 points and 12 rebounds and Andray Blatche added to his recent stretch of solid play with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting, but those efforts weren't enough to make up for another porous defensive effort.
The Bulls (9-11) shot 52.4 percent, made a season-high 11 three-pointers and racked up a season-high 31 assists. They also became the 11th Washington opponent to score 100 points or more.
After trailing 57-52 at halftime, the Wizards got consecutive scores by Blatche to cut the Chicago lead to 69-68 with 6:01 remaining in the third. But that momentum was quickly lost as Blatche was called for a charge, DeShawn Stevenson missed a three-pointer and Antonio Daniels had a layup attempt emphatically rejected by Ben Gordon, who later swished a three-pointer over Daniels to cap a 10-0 Bulls run. Daniels left the game with a bruised tailbone and did not return.
From that point on, the Wizards continued to struggle, particularly at the defensive end, and trailed 88-73 entering the fourth quarter. The Wizards were outscored 31-22 in third.
"I'm always happy with the effort guys give to dig themselves out of a hole and come back, but when you do that, so much energy is extended coming back, you're going to hit a plateau," Tapscott said. "We hit a plateau, the Bulls responded and pushed it out, and we were constantly chasing them all night."
The Wizards came out with good energy and were sparked early by rookie center JaVale McGee, who rejected two Rose shots on the first Chicago possession of the game. But the Bulls led by as many as nine in the second quarter and never trailed after that point.
Hughes was a major problem for his former team, especially in the second quarter when he connected on four three-pointers and scored 14 of his 24 points. Luol Deng finished with 26 and Gordon 21.
"Larry has been consistent all year," said first-year coach Vinny Del Negro. "He wants to compete, he wants to play every minute. He's one of my best defenders and he's got versatility and years of experience. He really got us going."
Wizards Notes: One of the few Washington highlights was provided by Dominic McGuire, who threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk over Andrés Nocioni early in the fourth.
In a game played at United Center last season, Nocioni dunked over Oleksiy Pecherov. That dunk was replayed over and over again on the highlight shows and was named one of NBA TV's top five highlights of the season.
"I told Nocioni: 'That was for Pesh,' " McGuire said.
Pecherov, who was again inactive, appreciated the gesture. "That's my man," he said with a Ukrainian accent. "Dom got him back for me."