By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; D04
John Wall grabbed the ball, lowered his head and darted up the court, looking for open space or an open teammate. But just as he crossed the three-point line, Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer reached out to keep Wall from getting to the basket. Wall reacted to the forearm as if he ran smack dab into the side of Verizon Center, meekly collapsing to the court as the ball fell from his hands.
Boozer wrapped both arms around Wall, guiding him gently down to the floor. The Bulls brought a physical brand of basketball, a candidate for the league's most valuable player award in Derrick Rose, and several thousand fans to the arena on Monday - and left the Washington Wizards shuddering and dazed during a 105-77 loss.
After putting forth competitive efforts in losses to Miami and Dallas, the Wizards gave an embarrassing performance against the Bulls that caused them to get booed and hear repeated "MVP!" chants for Rose.
"I felt good after our last two games. I don't feel as good after this game," Coach Flip Saunders said after the Wizards (15-44) lost their sixth straight.
Rose didn't have his best game, finishing with 21 points and nine assists, but he did make fans gasp with his dazzling dribbling displays, acrobatic drives to the basket and exciting passes. He elicited cheers early on when he dropped a between-the-legs, behind-the-back pass to Joakim Noah for a fast-break dunk. And, he put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when he made a flip pass to Luol Deng for a dunk and a wrap-around pass for another Noah dunk on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.
Wall had to wait nearly three months to get a rematch with Rose, after chasing him around in a Nov. 13 loss ending with Wall spraining his left foot and triggering an injury-plagued campaign. Wall had been playing some of his best basketball in recent weeks - the result of unexpected weight loss and the confidence that came from his performance during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles - and did have 10 assists, but he was limited to just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting. And, he had to hear fans in his home arena serenading Rose.
"He's playing like an MVP-type player this year. I told him that before the game, 'Go out there and win it.' He's an MVP-caliber player," Wall said of Rose. "I come prepared for every game, but this is a big game. You want to play against a great point guard. It was another big challenge for me and we came up short of another win. He had a spectacular game."
Rose also had plenty of help. Deng matched the point guard's total with 21 points and ended the first half by hitting a three-pointer and walking off the court, with his right hand still arched, before the ball splashed through the nets. Noah added 19 points and 11 rebounds, as the Bulls dominated the Wizards on the glass. Chicago outrebounded them, 56-39, and destroyed them in second-chance points, 22-4.
"What makes them so good at rebounding, all five rebound on their team, from Rose to Noah, they all hit the glass and get out running," said Andray Blatche, who returned after missing the previous two games with a strained right hip to register team highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds. "I just feel we need to do what they do - everybody committed to hitting the boards, instead of just me and JaVale [McGee] and the other bigs."
After scoring 38 points in Miami, Nick Young again struggled, as he was limited to just 14 points for the second straight game. The Bulls attacked Young with Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer, who roughed up Young and forced him into missing nine of his 15 field goal attempts.
"It was tough from the beginning," Young said. "I mess up at times. I let things get to me, I just have stay in it, play hard. I couldn't get nothing going."
Wall said the Wizards have to find a way to get it together for the final 23 games. "We got to finish up strong. We make some steps forward, then we take a huge step back. That's not going to help us. If it don't change, we get blown out like this. When you come out against great teams, you got to come out and fight hard."