- Associated Press - Monday, February 28, 2011

WASHINGTON | In the first quarter, Derrick Rose brought out the oohs and aahs with a backward between-the-legs pass to Joakim Noah for a fast-break dunk. In the second quarter, Luol Deng was walking to the locker room even before his 3-pointer from the corner swished through the net at the halftime buzzer.

In the fourth quarter, Rose fed Deng and Noah for back-to-back dunks that pushed the lead to 24. It was then time for the Chicago Bulls fans to change their chant from “M-V-P” for Rose to “Sca-la-breeee-nee” for beloved sub Brian Scalabrine, who came off the bench and hit a 19-footer that had the fans roaring in the road arena.

The Bulls frolicked past the Washington Wizards 105-77 Monday night, the type of easy win coach Tom Thibodeau’s team could use against a bad team as it heads into the teeth of a five-game road trip.

“Thibs came in and talked to us, and was telling us we can’t let down against teams like this, where we’ve got to come out and play aggressive and have an edge,” said Rose, who had 21 points and nine assists. “You don’t never want to come into a game like this where you give them confidence.”

The Bulls never trailed as they won their third straight and seventh in eight games. They moved within a game of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference as part of a three-way battle with the Boston Celtics for the conference’s No. 1 seed. Up next: a breathtaking trio of games at Atlanta, Orlando and Miami to finish up a five-game trip.

Deng also scored 21 points, Noah had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls. Noah was playing his fourth game since returning from a torn ligament in his right thumb, and his increasing comfort level showed when he was there to handle that highlight-reel pass from Rose.

“Just a play that I made,” Rose said. “But I didn’t have it pre-planned or anything. I just did it.”

Andray Blatche scored 15 points, and Nick Young had 14 for the Wizards, who have lost six in a row and 15 of 17 and have increasingly watched their home arena turned into a mass cheering section for whatever visiting team happens to be in town.

Mike Bibby was so anxious to leave that he gave up $6.2 million in a contract buyout on Monday after playing just two games with Washington. He had been acquired last week in a trade with Atlanta.

“Our fans were trying to fight back for us,” Blatche said, “but it came to the point where we didn’t give them no reason to fight back after we were down by 20-something.”

The Wizards have lost four of their last eight games by 20 or more points. In this one, they shot 36 percent, were outrebounded 56-39 and managed only four fast break points. No. 1 overall pick John Wall was 3 for 14 from the field and finished with nine points and 10 assists.

“Their bigs kicked our butts from the beginning,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said. “That first five minutes, they were getting every rebound, knocking us all over the place, and blocking every one of our shots. … Some of our guys just never reacted in a positive way.”

Meanwhile, Rose was surprised to be getting so much “M-V-P” love in another supposedly hostile arena.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “But I’m loving it right now. Coming into every arena and everybody’s cheering. And thank God we’re winning.”

Notes: The Bulls equaled their win total from last season’s 41-41 team. … Saunders said F Rashard Lewis played only 10 minutes because of illness. … Blatche returned after missing two games with a strained hip muscle. … Washington G Mustafa Shakur, signed before the game to take Bibby’s spot on the roster, played 6 minutes and did not score. … Thibodeau, trying his best to make the Wizards sound like a quality team: “Wall is terrific. Young is terrific. Blatche is, uh, certainly an established player now.”

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