- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WASHINGTON | The Chicago Bulls are 9-3 since Carlos Boozer returned after missing the first 15 games with a broken hand. He showed why Wednesday night — at the Washington Wizards‘ expense.

Boozer had 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, played the final 7 minutes with five fouls and scored the clinching points in the Bulls‘ 87-80 victory over the Wizards.

“It’s amazing that he’s doing what he’s doing,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s still working himself into shape. His legs aren’t under him yet in his timing.”

The Bulls‘ ninth win in 10 games didn’t come easily. Neither team generated consistent offense in the fourth quarter, with Chicago outscoring Washington 14-10 in the period.


“It had a weird rhythm to it. It wasn’t a fluid fourth quarter,” Boozer said. “That’s part of it, though. Some quarters are going to be like that. This game it just happened to be the fourth quarter.”

Boozer was called for two offensive fouls on back-to-back possessions during one of the scoreless stretches in the fourth quarter. Those possessions were bookended by offensive fouls by fellow big man Kirk Thomas, leaving both players with five fouls with 6 minutes to go.

Thibodeau didn’t flinch, leaving both in the game. Thomas fouled out with two minutes left, but Boozer remained in the game and scored four of the Bulls‘ final six points, including a layup with 35 seconds left that sealed the win after Washington pulled within three points.

“Around the 6-minute mark, where they both had five, the question is, ‘Do you take one out?’” Thibodeau said. “The way it was going, I felt we could take a chance.”

Boozer and Derrick Rose, who finished with 25 points, had sparked the Bulls on a run to take the lead in the third quarter. The duo combined to score 23 of the Bulls‘ 27 points in the quarter and Chicago moved into the lead midway through the period with a 13-0 run, holding Washington scoreless for nearly 4½ minutes.

Although the Wizards briefly regained the lead, Rose’s free throws gave the Bulls the edge again at 68-67 with 2 minutes left in the third, and Chicago didn’t give it away again.

The Wizards started well, scoring 33 points in the first quarter and leading 50-46 at the half. Washington extended the lead to eight points — its largest margin of the game — immediately after the break.

“They’re a good defensive team,” said Washington guard Kirk Hinrich, who finished with 19 points. “The ball was sticking a little bit. We weren’t moving as well as we were early in the game for whatever reason, and that’s whey our scoring went down.”

Even early there were signs of trouble. About 3½ minutes in, forward Andray Blatche got a steal and went in for a fast-break layup when he seemed to lose his grip on the ball and wildly throw it off the backboard.

“After that layup, I knew it was going to be a long night — and it was,” said Blatche, who had seven points and four rebounds.

Nick Young scored 22 points for the Wizards, who again fell short in an attempt for its first two-game winning streak of the season. Washington has lost 12 of its last 14 games.

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