As Jay pointed out earlier today, the Wiz may have a poor overall record but are a much better team when fully healthy. And obviously so are the Bulls, as they encountered yet another injury on their way to a close 90-86 loss. Taj Gibson's left knee buckled in the 2nd quarter and he did not return. It was a non-contact injury on the same knee he just came back from last month, so that's not good at all.
And a lack of Taj and Joakim Noah allowed the Wizards to really exploit the Bulls big men on high pick-and-rolls all game. The Bulls battled foul trouble or reacting too slowly to even foul as John Wall repeatedly forced the Bulls to over-help. Wall showed a little bit of everything tonight, with a game-high 27 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and only a single turnover. Wall was aggressive on the mentioned high screens as well as showing no mercy in transition, working his way to the line (11-13 FT) or coming off screens for an improved midrange jumper. Kirk Hinrich battled foul trouble for a lot of the game, and melted down a bit in the 4th as he protested a non-call on one of his drives and was hit up with consecutive technicals. Jimmy Butler then took on the assignment in the stretch run, but while he did a decent job staying with the Wiz's PG, Wall was still using screens to bring out Carlos Boozer and Nazr Mohammed, and was able to generate points on the final two crucial possessions. The Bulls meanwhile had a Butler missed jumper (who was 4-13 tonight and a bit too overeager defensively himself) and 4 missed FTs to cap a 37-point second half.
While the Bulls bigs did have their struggles on defense, they at least put up some of their own production enough to keep the game close throughout. Carlos Boozer started out real hot but his 19 points did come on 18 shots. Nazr Mohammed had an even less efficient line, but 12 points from his still pretty much gravy. Both combined for 24 rebounds, with Nazr getting 7 on the offensive glass in a game where both teams were over 76% in defensive rebound percentage. Nazr's last putback was the Bulls only points in the final 2 minutes.
This was also a close game because at times neither team looked good enough to take it. Through a long stretch to end the 3rd, both teams traded stretches of ineffectiveness and then both combined. And then in the 4th they combined for 1 point in the first four minutes. The Wizards were definitely aggressive, but it got them into trouble when they'd pass up easy early opportunities for more difficult looks. However that gamble ultimately paid off as they hit 6-13 from three, often off of that penetration.
There were not a lot of good individual performances in a game where both teams shot around 40% from the field. Nate Robinson, Luol Deng, Hinrich and Butler all had brief spurts of effectiveness but nobody stood out enough to overcome all the injuries the team has suffered (and with Daquean Cook playing like he's hiding an injury to his basketball-playing bone). The Wizards didn't look great, but they closed out the game better and now have won 8 straight games at home. Yes, they're part of the 'easy' end of the schedule, but nothing will be that way if there's yet another injury to consider.