It didn’t get off to a great start. The Wizards let the Bulls’ bench dictate the tone of most of the first quarter, even though Chicago came into Tuesday’s game shorthanded. The oft-maligned Rajon Rondo gave the team a spark and helped the Bulls jump out to a 44-26 lead early in the second quarter.
As the first half came to a close, the starters helped to pull it back together. John Wall and Bradley Beal helped close the margin back down to a dozen by halftime. Then in the third quarter, the Wizards really started to pour it on with their starters back on the floor. Washington outscored Chicago 32-16 to take a four point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Just when it looked like the Wiz might be ready to pull away, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis spearheaded another run to give the Bulls a 7 point lead with 7:38 left. It looked like it was going to be another case of the Wizards failing to seize an opportunity to pick up a win against a team on the second night of a back-to-back missing two of their best players.
But with their backs against the wall, Washington stepped up to make sure the Wizards wouldn’t let a great opportunity pass them by. Wall and Markieff Morris combined to score 12 of the next 14 points for Washington to help even things up with Chicago. Then, Wall put the game away thanks to this jumper with five seconds left in the game.
With the win, the Wizards improved to 19-18 on the season, the first time they’ve been over .500 since November 24, 2015. They’re still a very flawed team, but as long as they have John Wall, they’ll have a shot in just about every game, in spite of their clear issues.
Here’s what else we noticed in the win:
Save John Wall
In the 40 minutes and 10 seconds Wall played in this game, he had 26 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds, and the Wizards outscored the Bulls by 24. In the 7 minutes and 50 seconds he was not on the floor, the Wizards were outscored by 22 points. John Wall shouldn’t have to be this good just to pull out a two point win at home against a team missing Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.
Washington’s three point defense shows major cracks in the first half
With Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade out, the Bulls had to use spacing to compensate for their lack of driving ability. From the get-go, it was pretty clear the Wizards were not ready to handle the shooters the Bulls brought off the bench. Denzel Valentine hit four threes and Bobby Portis added a pair as Chicago shot 80 percent from deep in the first half.
In the second half, Washington reeled it back in, holding the Bulls to 2-17 on threes, and that proved to be just enough to help them get back into the game. Just think, if the Bulls had simply gone 3-17 in the second half (under 18 percent!) the Bulls would have finished with 102 points, which would have been enough to win this game.
The scariest part? The Bulls came into Tuesday’s game with the worst three-point percentage in the league. Washington has to do much better defending the perimeter if they’re going to have a shot in Boston on Wednesday.