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.
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.