- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2012

CHICAGO — The Washington Wizards arrived in Chicago full of optimism after winning their first game of the season against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night at home. Facing the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls on the road was going to be a much tougher challenge, but still, there was hope for some carryover.

It wasn’t the case. The Wizards lost to the Bulls 78-64 at United Center on a night when reigning MVP Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton were both out of the lineup. The Wizards had yet another dismal shooting performance, shooting just 31 percent (26-for-84). But the Bulls didn’t light up the scoreboard either, shooting 36.7 percent (33-for-90).

“Well, you saw a game where one team’s got a back-to-back and the other team’s got three in a row,” Saunders said. The Bulls were playing their third straight game; the Wizards, their second.

“We’ve been struggling as far as shooting the basketball, [but] we played hard and I thought defensively, we were pretty good, but we couldn’t put anything in the basket.”

The Bulls are one of the league’s best defensive teams, holding opponents to an average of 87.8 points per game, but combined with the Wizards’ poor shooting, it led to Washington’s lowest total in the history of the Wizards-Bullets franchise.

“We’ve been struggling to get up over 40 percent, we couldn’t get any easy ones. We had some shot selection that was probably questionable, but that’s because the shot clock is winding down due to good defense from them. We had some guys that just didn’t seems ready to shoot when they got it,” Saunders said.

Saunders went with the same starting lineup he used against the Raptors, with Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton replacing Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche. Blatche sat out the game with a strained right shoulder and is listed as day-to-day. While Saunders continues to make adjustments, trying to find any kind of combination that will produce better results.

John Lucas III got his first career NBA start in place of Rose. The son of former University of Maryland star John Lucas responded with a career-high 25 points, along with eight assists and eight rebounds.

John Wall had another tough outing, going 4-for-13 from the floor for 11 points, with eight assists and four turnovers.

“He’s just right now in a bad rhythm,” Saunders said of Wall.

“I guess we’ve got to watch some film, talk to him, try to get him to maybe slow things down. When you’re out there and you’re playing and the team can’t score and you have the ball in your hands, you get to the point where you think ‘I’ve got to make something happen’, and he gets himself in some bad ways.”

“It’s not frustrating,” Wall said of the Wizards’ offensive struggles, as well as his own. “At times, we’re not making our shots, but when we make those shots we’re a better team. Sometimes, there’s going to be those nights when we’re not making shots and some shots are falling.

“Last year, we could score on offense, but we couldn’t play defense. I think when we put those two things together, we’ll be a better team. Until we can get 48 minutes from both sides, it’s going to be tough.”

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

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