Down by 17 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Wizards could have mailed in the rest of the game against the conference-leading Chicago Bulls.
But the Wizards showed they still had some fight left in them, scrapping and closing the gap before eventually falling 98-88 on Monday night at Verizon Center.
“As I just told my team, I have no fault with the effort and play tonight. That’s a very good basketball team,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
The Wizards’ fourth-quarter run was spurred by the type of pressure defense Wittman wants to make part of the Wizards regular game plan.
“I was little hesitant to do what we did in the fourth quarter because we hadn’t worked on it,” Wittman said. “But I said ‘let’s go, guys. We got one chance here to make this a ball game.’
“They’re one exhausted bunch of guys in there right now that left it on the floor. I can’t ask for anything more.”
Against the a team like the Bulls (18-5), the Wizards (4-17) couldn’t quite pull off the upset. Chicago point guard Derrick Rose, the league’s reigning MVP, came into the game with a chip on his shoulder after losing a close game to the Miami Heat on Sunday, and said he planned to “go crazy” against the Wizards.
Rose kept his word. He scored 35 points — 31 in the first three quarters — on 10-of-20 shooting from the floor, had eight assists, two steals and three blocks.
John Wall tried his best to keep up and led the Wizards with 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting, with six assists, two rebounds and two steals.
“They’ve got a good offensive team that he don’t have to do all the scoring, but he knows when to take over,” Wall said of Rose. “He just plays at a pace and he knows when to take over and when he needs to score for his team and he did that today and tried to end the game pretty quick, and we just kept fighting.”
Without the services of Andray Blatche, who will miss three to five weeks with a right calf strain, there will be more pressure on Jan Vesely, who has replaced Blatche in the starting lineup, and Trevor Booker, who will need to add some offensive punch to his already strong defensive game.
Booker played well for the Wizards in his past two outings, scoring a season-high 16 against the Bobcats on Saturday night in Charlotte, and 14 on Monday night against the Bulls with an efficient 7-of-9 from the floor, nine rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
“With a player like Derrick Rose, [who’s] so quick, we’ve got to get the ball out of his hands,” Booker said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ Sometimes, I caught myself spectating, just watching him. And some of the shots he hit, just unbelievable.”
Despite Rose’s spectacular play, Wittman told them to keep fighting, and work on getting better.
“They [the Wizards coaches] stayed positive,” Booker said. “We got a positive reaction out of it.”