CHICAGO | It was not even six days ago when the Washington Wizards, fresh off a scrappy win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, spoke of their progress. They described the optimism that had been sparked and how they needed and expected to take advantage of an eight-game stretch against losing teams as they looked to get their season back on track.
Yeah, so much for that.
The same team that shocked the Cavaliers and fell just shy of winning at Orlando dragged itself into Chicago and made the struggling hosts look like the on-the-rise Bulls of four years ago in a 98-86 loss.
Talk about regression.
And what's worse, all the miscues the Wizards committed in Wednesday's thumping by the injury-plagued Toronto Raptors — the slow start, lifeless defensive effort and lack of aggression — were all themes again. The Bulls rained down nine 3-pointers and boasted four double-digit scorers. They held Washington's All-Star tandem of Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler to just 14 points on combined 5-for-20 shooting.
Had it not been for a career-high 28-point output off the bench from second-year guard Nick Young, the Wizards would've suffered an even more lopsided loss.
"Guys really stepped up at the end, Nick Young came out did some amazing things and scored well off the bench," said Butler, who had a season-low two points on 1-for-8 shooting. "As for myself, I never caught a rhythm, never got in a groove, but other guys really played well. ... I can't put my finger on it, I don't know what it is exactly. The rhythm never got there for me personally. It was probably my worst games, ever, as a professional player."
The Bulls used an early 24-10 run to take a 30-16 lead heading into the second quarter. It didn't get any better then; Washington continued to get bullied on the boards and didn't manage a single putback basket before halftime. (It scored only one all game.)
The Wizards lacked aggression on both ends. They shied away from driving to the basket and didn't get to the foul line once in the first half — and they routinely left the Bulls open for uncontested jump shots.
With 2:12 left in the first half, Andres Nocioni knocked down a 3-pointer on an assist from Ben Gordon to give his team a 50-30 lead — the Bulls' largest of the first two quarters. The half ended with Chicago up 52-34 and with the Bulls having collected 15 assists to Washington's six.
The Wizards showed slightly improved effort in the third quarter. They outscored Chicago 23-19 but never managed to trim their deficit to less than 13 points or do a better job defending the Bulls on the perimeter.
Providing a spark at the end of the third quarter was seldom-used second-year forward Oleksiy Pecherov, who had played in only six games. He knocked down a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper for five of his nine points.
Chicago opened the fourth with a 5-0 run that put it ahead 76-57. After Young was called for carrying the ball, Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott stepped onto the court and took out his frustration on referee Bob Delaney, who assessed a double technical foul and ejected Tapscott.
"I had a mild disagreement that escalated," Tapscott said. "There is a degree of frustration when you haven't been playing well, and there is a degree from when you have mild disagreements that carry on for a while, and you combine the two, and you take an early shower."
Pecherov scored four more points, and Young took over and scored 15 of the next 19 Washington points to cut Chicago's lead to 89-82 with 2:53 left.
“I made a move that I haven't done in a while and got a dunk and that got me energized,” said Young, who scored 18 points in the fourth quarter. “And knowing coach had my back on that carry and got kicked out for it, I had to keep it going.”
But the Wizards remained unable to get the key stops they needed to continue their momentum.
Ben Gordon, who led the Bulls with 22 points, got a finger-roll to drop. On the Bulls' next trip down, he missed an open 3-pointer, but Drew Gooden slammed home a putback. Larry Hughes followed that with Chicago's ninth and final 3-pointer to put away the Wizards.