- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2008

CHICAGO — Faced with what looked like disaster at halftime, the Washington Wizards made their biggest comeback of the season in a much-needed 97-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls last night at United Center.

When the horn sounded signaling the end of the second quarter, the Wizards appeared defeated. Already short-handed thanks to the injuries of Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, they had just suffered a blow of a different sort when shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson was ejected for cursing while questioning a noncall with 59.1 seconds left in the half.

The Wizards then joined him into the locker room, down 52-34 at halftime.

  • Outlet: Unlikely contributions continue to lift Wizards

  • But the Wizards (28-30) came thundering back in the second half with a 22-1 scoring spree to stun the Bulls. They conclude this week’s three-game road trip with a 2-1 record and earn their fourth win in the last five games.

    Antawn Jamison and backups Roger Mason Jr. and Andray Blatche led the Wizards scoring 17 points apiece. Jamison also had 15 rebounds, while Blatche added 10. Point guard Antonio Daniels recorded 16 points and five assists and forward Darius Songaila — making his second start of the season — finished with 14 points and four assists. Center Brendan Haywood posted 10 points and seven rebounds.

    “This is one of those wins that really feels good,” Daniels said. “Because it was a character win. It’s easy, the last game of the trip to fold, we’re down 18, plus we’re in another team’s building, but we didn’t. Guys really stayed positive with each other.”

    The feeling was oppositely sickening for Chicago.

    “We are embarrassed,” interim coach Jim Boylan said. “We embarrassed the organization and the city of Chicago tonight. I apologize for that.”

    The Bulls (23-35) came out cold in the third quarter, committing eight turnovers in the first eight minutes of the third quarter and missing their first nine shots.

    Washington came out equally as hot, reeling off a 22-1 tear that gave it a 54-53 lead — its first of the game — when Jamison scored on a putback with 5:24 left in the third quarter. Mason paced the Wizards with eight points on the spree — the last of which, a long jumper that gave Washington a 56-53 advantage and forced a Chicago timeout with 5:03 left in the third.

    Mason scored all of his points in the second half and also came up with two steals.

    “Roger, he’s been the quiet assassin for us,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “He goes to his strength and when people locked in on his jump shot, he may surprise you with a drive once in a while.”

    The quarter ended with the Wizards having outscored the Bulls 35-14 and up 69-66. Washington, who made only one 3-pointer in the game, capitalized on Chicago’s butter fingers, converting the 10 third-quarter turnovers for 16 points. For the game, the Wizards cashed in 22 Bulls turnovers for 29 points.

    But the Bulls rediscovered the level of play they sported in the first half and took an 84-83 lead with 3:35 left on a pair of Joakim Noah free throws.

    Songaila tied the game 13 seconds later, though, making the second of two foul shots.

    The Bulls threatened the rest of the way, pulling within 93-91 on an Andres Nocioni 3-pointer with 39.9 seconds left. Then came the bounce that in previous games seemed to go against the Wizards.

    After the inbounds pass, Mason had the ball but looked to dump it down to Songaila, but there was a mixup and Songaila couldn’t get to the ball. Seeing Bulls forward Drew Gooden closing in, Songaila got a hand on the ball and tapped it to a wide open Jamison, who scored on a layup that put Washington up 95-91 and clinched the game.

    “We finally got a bounce our way,” Jordan said. “All night and it seemed like most of the trip, we got hands on a lot of balls, caused a lot of deflections but we never got the loose balls whether it was a deflection coming off the rim. But we finally got one, so we got lucky a little bit.”

    Wizards report

    Last night at United Center in Chicago

    SEEN AND HEARD

    Forward Darius Songaila made his second start of the season, taking the spot of Andray Blatche, who had started 13 games in place of Caron Butler, who has been out with a small labral tear in his left hip. Blatche scored 17 points against the Bulls, and Songaila scored 14 points against his former team. …

    The beard-growing contest between the Bulls’ Drew Gooden and the Wizards’ DeShawn Stevenson continues. The players this past summer laid down a bet over who could go the longest without shaving. Neither has yielded. Gooden, traded from the Cavaliers last week, owns the bushiest beard and looks like a biblical character. Stevenson has some nice growth going as well but not to the degree of Gooden. Throw in Joakim Noah’s poofy ponytail and there was plenty of hair to go around at United Center.

    BY THE NUMBERS

    22-1Third-quarter run by the Wizards to get back into the game after trailing 52-34 at halftime.

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