- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2012

CHICAGO — It was obvious from the limp he was walking with as he ambled through the hallways of the United Center. Or from the large plate of food he was nibbling on shortly before the game. Jordan Crawford was not available to play when the Washington Wizards faced the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Saturday.

The team’s leading scorer was sorely missed. Without Crawford, who was nursing a sore left ankle, the Wizards shot a miserable 36.5 percent from the floor and fell to the Bulls 87-77.

“Obviously it hurts, you lose your leading scorer,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “It doesn’t help matters. I don’t think the guys were like, ‘Oh Jordan’s not here, we’re not going to shoot the ball.’ That hurts when you take that scoring out. We battled all the way to the end.”

The Bulls are not exactly an offensive juggernaut, averaging 92.9 points, good for 27th in the league, but the Wizards never came close to that mark. Although the Bulls shot just 39.1 percent themselves, they held the Wizards scoreless for the final 4:47 of the game to wrap up the win, improving to 16-12, while the Wizards fell to 4-24.

“They’re a good defensive team,” Wittman said. “We struggled from the perimeter, the wing guys. They fought hard. Again, we just weren’t knocking down perimeter shots. Tonight if we weren’t scoring in the paint, we were struggling to score.”

In his never-ending process of tweaking his lineups, Wittman went with Garrett Temple to start the game at point guard, bringing Shelvin Mack off the bench. But Temple struggled to score just like the rest of this teammates. Temple went 3 of 11 from the floor, but did manage to pull down nine rebounds and dish out five assists.

“I brought some energy,” Temple said. “I felt like I missed a couple assignments defensively. My shots weren’t falling so I tried to do other things, get rebounds, get assists. I wished I didn’t have as many turnovers as I did. At the end of the game we’ve got to buckle down execute and that falls on me.”

The line of the night belonged to Emeka Okafor, who posted a double-double with 11 points and a season-high 18 rebounds.

“I just turned around the ball was in my hands,” Okafor said. “It just seemed like perfect timing a lot of times. It didn’t start off that way, in the beginning, I couldn’t grab one. Then, as it went on, I found my flow.”

Beal led the way for Washington with 14 points, but shot just 5 of 15 from the floor. The most efficient line belong to Kevin Seraphin, who had 12 points on 5 of 11 from the floor.

The Wizards once again had two quarters that led to their demise. In the second quarter, they managed just 13 points. In the fourth, they scored just 14. They did manage to out-rebound the Bulls, 56-49, but killed themselves on turnovers, with 17 to just nine for Chicago.

Beal looked at the game as just another lesson he needs to learn as he goes through his own rookie growing pains. It was also a lesson the team needs to learn if they’re ever going to get better.

“It’s real tough, because they know what you’re going to do,” Beal said of the Bulls. “And they take it away. They are a tough team, their defense is great.”

The Bulls were led by Marco Belinelli, who scored 17 points off the bench and had his way with Beal when Beal tried to defend him. Carlos Boozer had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and former Wizard Kirk Hinrich added 10 points and seven assists.

“The way they rotate and talk and communicate is excellent,” Beal said. “It’s definitely some note taking we need to do and use the way they communicate and talk more than anything.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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