JaVale McGee has been plagued by inconsistent play since the all-star break, but the Wizards center recorded the first triple-double of his career Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls. McGee’s line of 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks had to be a welcome contribution on a team where the injuries made for only nine available bodies, but ultimately, the Bulls pulled out the 98-79 victory.
The Bulls now sit atop the Eastern Conference at 48-18, one game ahead of the Boston Celtics, while the Wizards dropped to 16-50.
“Tonight we started three rookies, we played five guys under 23 (years old). That shows a lot of opportunity for the future. The guys played hard but just ran out of gas. Our guards played 46 and 48 minutes. JaVale (McGee) played very well, especially defensively. He defended the pick and rolls well and really guarded the rim for us. Tonight I cannot fault the effort. We competed and at the half would have only been down one except for Thomas’ last second three,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders told reporters.
The storyline prior to last night’s contest was the point guard matchup of MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose and rookie John Wall; leaving Saunders to come up with the best strategy he could to slow Rose down.
“We played zone for most of the game. That kept JaVale and the guys around to defend the basket. It worked in that we held them to 40 percent shooting. However, when you play zone you open it up to threes. Tonight we held them under 40 percent but we also gave up 22 points on turnovers. We also wanted to take away the middle from Rose. We were able to corral him but if you allow him to penetrate he is so good in the paint it opens up everything to him for his floater, shots or easy open passes,” Saunders said.
The shorthanded Wizards turned in a competitive effort, with Yi Jianlian scoring a season high 14 points, Jordan Crawford scoring a career high 27 points and McGee posting an NBA season high with his 12 blocks. Wall held his own scoring 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Rose had 23 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
“Unlike last night (against the Thunder), tonight we competed. Tonight we didn’t hang our heads. In the first half we were down 17 and were able to get it back to within one. In the second half we fell back again and cut it to 12 then missed three free throws. Our rookies our growing and learning if we can keep up this kind of effort, I see there will be a lot of opportunity for us in the future,” Saunders said.
McGee called his final basket of the game “the hardest one point I ever tried to make in my life.”
“It was crazy but I got it. It was a dunk of relief. I was out there just trying to help my team, trying to be in the right position. I felt like I was in the right position tonight. I had three blocks the first quarter and I was trying to match that in the second quarter. But then I had seven in the second quarter so I was trying to get 14. I was just trying to stay on my feet as much as I could tonight because I was blocking shots so good in the first half they started hesitating and were more afraid to go up,” McGee said.
The Wizards will have two days off before playing the Raptors in Toronto (18-48) on Friday, an easier opponent than their last three, giving the team has a decent chance to finally pick up their second road win of the season.
(Quotes courtesy of Chicago Bulls Media Relations Department)