CHICAGO (AP) - All season long there’s been a debate in Chicago: Are the Bulls led by homegrown star Derrick Rose, or by emerging star Jimmy Butler?
On Wednesday, they were neither.
With Rose and Butler both out with injuries, the team was led by committee, a cobbled-together group of role players who stepped forward and beat the Washington Wizards 109-104.
Taj Gibson and E’Twaun Moore scored 17 for the Bulls and Tony Snell was 4 for 5 from 3-point range and finished with 16 points to lead the cast of fill-ins. Doug McDermott and Mike Dunleavy each scored 14.
“I had to look at the names on the back of the jerseys,” Dunleavy joked about the Bulls’ weird lineup. “I didn’t even recognize some of them.”
Besides missing Rose and Butler, who has missed seven games with a knee injury, the Bulls are without Nikola Mirotic, who has appendicitis, and have played since Jan. 15 without Joakim Noah because of a shoulder injury.
“It says a lot about our team, it’s not just one or two guys,” McDermott said. “We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that are capable.”
Regular starter Pau Gasol, who missed practice on Tuesday and was playing with the flu, narrowly missed a triple-double, finishing with 15 rebounds, 10 points and nine assists in the Bulls’ third straight victory.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 19 points. Garrett Temple scored 18 and Ramon Sessions and John Wall added 16. Markieff Morris had 10 rebounds for the Wizards.
“We didn’t come out with defensive urgency,” Wall said. “They were moving the ball, getting whatever they wanted.”
After the teams played evenly in the first half, another Bulls bench player, Aaron Brooks, keyed a run at the end of the second half that gave the Bulls the lead, which they wouldn’t give up. Brooks hit a soft jumper to tie the score and then a driving layup to give the Bulls a 57-55 halftime lead.
The Bulls took control in the third behind 3-pointers from Snell, Moore and Dunleavy. They would lead by as much as 15, with McDermott getting a couple of thundering second-half dunks that brought the crowd to its feet.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman said Washington wasn’t focused defensively after the break.
“We come out at the start of the second half, it’s a two-point game,” Wittman said. “We give up three layups and three catch-and-shoot 3s in the first three minutes. They score 15 in the first three minutes. … What’d we score, 104? You should win that. We only average 102.”
Rose said before the game that he was sitting for precautionary reasons, but that his hamstring had been bothering him a couple of days.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said he was particularly proud of bench players stepping up in light of Rose’s last-minute decision.
“It’s the next man up mentality,” said Hoiberg. “It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s what guys like Justin Holiday, Tony Snell, E’Twaun Moore, it’s why you play this game. It’s for opportunities like this when your main players aren’t out there.”
Justin Holiday got his first minutes since being acquired from Atlanta in a trade on Feb. 18, and hit his first shot in a Bulls uniform, a 3-pointer in the first quarter. Holiday finished with three points.
D-LEAGUE BLOWS INTO WINDY CITY
The Bulls announced their new D-League team in Chicago will be called the Windy City Bulls. The team will begin play with the 2016-17 season and play its home games at Sears Centre Arena in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates.
Wizards: Alan Anderson returned to the lineup for the Wizards, playing for the first time this season after surgery on his left ankle. He finished with nine points in 16 minutes. … Gary Neal missed his seventh straight game with right leg soreness.
Bulls: Despite the makeshift starting lineup, all five Bulls starters scored in double figures. … Since Jan. 9, the Bulls have had eight players miss games for a total of 60 lost games, tied for second-most games lost to injury over that span. …The Bulls are 6-1 without Rose in the lineup.
Wizards: At Philadelphia on Friday night.
Bulls: At Atlanta on Friday night.
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