By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 14, 2010; 1:55 AM
CHICAGO - Midway through the third quarter, John Wall buried a three-pointer from the left corner but began to grimace as he ran down the court. He started reaching for his left foot, which he hurt a few moments before during a collision with Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, but he couldn't stop for long as he set up on defense.
He slipped in front of Luol Deng to prevent a drive, but in the process of taking the charge, Wall fell backward onto the right knee of Washington Wizards teammate Yi Jianlian. Yi collapsed to the ground, grabbed his knee and didn't move until teammates Hamady Ndiaye and Kevin Seraphin helped him walk toward the locker room.
"With the tough times we're having, it was sad to see him go down," said Wall, who tried to play through the pain in his foot before eventually heading to the locker room and leaving the Wizards to trudge along in his absence.
Gilbert Arenas, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Young, Trevor Booker and Hilton Armstrong helped keep the game competitive, cutting an 18-point second-half deficit to single digits before Wall returned late in the fourth quarter. But with Wall lacking his usual burst, Andray Blatche struggling after developing swelling in his left knee, and Yi ruled out with a bruised bone and hyperextended knee, the Wizards were unable to avoid a 103-96 loss on Saturday at United Center.
"We're like a MASH crew," Coach Flip Saunders said. "The positive thing is, our guys didn't give up. It would've been easy for us, back-to-back games, down by 18, to mail it in, but our guys competed."
Arenas spearheaded the comeback as he went for a season-high 30 points on 11-of-22 shooting - including 7 for 10 from beyond the three-point line. He bounced back from a difficult outing the night before, when he missed 12 of 14 shots, and said he changed his approach from previous games, opting not to take any extra shots before the game and letting it flow.
"I was shooting myself out of rhythm the nights before," said Arenas, whose last three-pointer brought the Wizards (2-6) within five points with 10.9 seconds remaining. "We hung in there and fought."
Wall's first matchup against Rose, a fellow John Calipari product and 2008 No. 1 overall pick, was the primary story line as the night began. Before the game, Wall said he was looking forward to the challenge. "He's a talented point guard that reached all the expectations I'm trying to get to: all-star, rookie of the year, all those things," Wall said.
Rose attacked Wall early, getting the first points of the game on a pull-up jumper, but he missed his next eight shots before eventually settling down. He finished with 24 points and eight assists.
Wall had 16 points and six assists, the first time this season that he failed to get at least seven assists. Wall had a few spectacular plays early on, including an impressive layup in which he split Rose, Deng and Keith Bogans to get to the basket. He also found JaVale McGee on an incredible alley-oop dunk over a helpless Kyle Korver that brought every player on the Wizards' bench out of his seat.
He returned to hit a three-pointer that brought the Wizards within six points with 30.9 seconds remaining. "Seeing my teammates fighting hard, I wanted to be out there with them. They did a great job of fighting back," said Wall, who left the arena in a walking boot. "If I couldn't get out there, I at least wanted to be on the bench cheering them on."
In his first regular season game back in Chicago, Hinrich was announced last during pregame introductions and was greeted with a standing ovation from Bulls fans who remember him leading the team to five playoff appearances in his first seven seasons in the league. During the first timeout of the game, the Bulls paid homage to Hinrich by playing a video tribute, featuring images from his most memorable games. Hinrich tried not watch, but a few of his teammates glanced at the video screen above the court. Hinrich sat on the scorers' table and looked up after the video ended as fans again rose to give him an ovation.
"I didn't look at it, but I have a copy in my bag," Hinrich said of the tribute. The reception from the fans "was really nice. I'm not really one for that, but it means something that they appreciate the type of player I was."
Hinrich finished with eight points - all in the second half - with six assists, while Armstrong came off the bench to provide a season-high eight points and 10 rebounds. Young added 11 points, but Blatche was limited to a season-low four points on 2-of-10 shooting. Saunders tried to put him back in the fourth quarter but was forced to pull him because "he couldn't move out there."
After the game, Yi said his knee injury wasn't too serious. "It kind of feel sore, weak," he said. "I check it, not too bad."
Armstrong was disappointed that they couldn't pull out the win. "If we play like we did the fourth quarter the whole game, we'd have a better record," he said.