The Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 85-81 in a close, sloppily played game at the United Center on Monday night. Glen Rice Jr. scored 18 points off the bench to lead a Wizards rally that gave the Wizards yet another victory in Chicago in 2014.
In a game that featured showed some of the animosity between these two teams left over from the playoffs, the Wizards prevailed despite the absence of Nene and an early injury to fellow power forward Kris Humphries. New addition Nikola Mirotic impressed for Chicago, adding 17 points and five rebounds off the bench and hitting 3-5 from beyond the arc.
Three things we learned
1. The Wizards and Bulls are ready to fight. The Wizards talked a lot about toughness prior to the season, with Pierce's talk about protecting the Verizon Center and Dejuan Blair's reference to the "DC Bad Boys." It only took 3 minutes or so until the Wizards and Bulls reignited the fiery physical rivalry they had in the 2014 Playoffs. This time, it was Pierce who sparked the match, hitting Jimmy Butler in the chest to stop the Bulls small forward in transition, which eventually led to this showdown between Joakim Noah and Paul Pierce:
The benches emptied and there were shoves and dirty looks, but ultimately not much happened. After review Pierce was only assessed with a common foul, and things were mostly civil between the teams for the rest of the night. There was a potential moment of conflict when Kevin Seraphin set a tough moving screen on Jimmy Butler that sent Butler reeling to the ground in the second half. As on the foul on Pierce in the first quarter, Butler's head showed a remarkable sensitivity to a hit that came to an entirely different part of his body.
At least one observer was happy with the Wizards toughness in the first preseason game:
I love how my boys are already setting the tone about how we wanna play this year.— Martell Webster (@MartellWebster) October 7, 2014
2. The Glen Rice Jr. show: With the Wizards stagnating in the fourth quarter, Rice got things going with a couple of improbable mid range shots, followed by an alley-oop to Damion James and a three pointer from the right wing. The second year shooting guard picked up where he left off in summer league. It was Rice's play that started a Wizards rally that stopped the Bulls from taking control of the game in the fourth quarter and pushed the Wizards to another win at the United Center.
3. Pierce and Wall struggle to find a rhythm. In his first appearance with the Wizards, Pierce failed to make much of an impact offensively. In 19:34 of playing time, he only scored two points on 0-3 shooting while committing five fouls and giving up five turnovers. Though he did manage to grab seven rebounds, all in all it was a lackluster debut for the 17-year vet, the main highlight being the aforementioned foul and altercation in the first quarter.
John Wall didn't have the best night either, shooting 1-7 from the field and putting up eight points and three assists in 27 minutes. But there probably isn't too much to read into this. Wall wasn't great in the preseason last year and turned it on when the games started counting.