Wizards' Loss a Result Of Familiar Bad Habits
Bulls 98, Wizards 86
Saturday, January 10, 2009; Page E01
CHICAGO, Jan. 9 -- It's hard to imagine now but it was only four years ago that the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls engaged in an intense first-round playoff series that will be remembered for the game-winning shot Gilbert Arenas hit in the closing seconds of Game 5 at Chicago's United Center.
Now, the Wizards and Bulls are two struggling teams far closer to the draft lottery than an NBA championship. At least the Bulls, who improved to 16-20 with a 98-86 win over the flat Wizards on Friday night in the same building where Arenas hit his greatest shot, can still make a playoff run.
After losing consecutive games to losing teams while playing uninspired basketball, the Wizards (7-28) look exactly like what their record says they are: the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Upset over a fourth-quarter traveling call that went against Nick Young or perhaps just deciding that he'd seen enough, interim coach Ed Tapscott came onto the court and earned his first ejection since taking over for Eddie Jordan on Nov. 25.
Behind Young, who finished with a career-high 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting, the Wizards made a push to draw as close as seven with just less than three minutes to play. But as has been the case all season, that couldn't make up for 3 1/2 quarters of lousy basketball.
The kill shot came when Drew Gooden followed a missed three-pointer by Ben Gordon with an offensive rebound and layup to give Chicago a 93-83 lead with 1 minute 26 seconds to play. Gooden was not boxed out.
The bigger issue was that the Wizards came out flat and trailed 30-16 after the first quarter.
"We got off to a bad start, which has been far too much of a pattern for us, and to our credit, guys hang in there and fight and make a run to get it back but the refrain is getting tiresome about falling behind and making a noble comeback and just falling short," Tapscott said. "That, after a while, is just another bad habit."
"I think that's my worst game ever," said Butler, who was blanketed by Bulls guard Thabo Sefolosha in the first half. "In my life."
Gordon led the Bulls with 22 points and former Wizard Larry Hughes scored 17 off the bench. Chicago connected on nine of 19 three-pointers and held a 13-2 edge in second-chance points.
The Wizards trailed 52-34 at halftime after failing to attempt a single free throw, but that was less a reflection of the job done by referees Bob Delaney, Curtis Blair and Violet Palmer than an indication that the passive Wizards were too reliant on jump shots and played with a general lack of aggression.