The Bulls had a lead for much of a matinee contest in Washington, but it was the home Wizards who made enough plays late to somewhat-steal a 114-110 win.
I suppose if the Bulls were still tanking this would be a nice ‘tank-win’, because despite the final score this was a fun, fast-paced game with great offensive performances on all sides. But the Fightin’ Niko’s, playoff contenders, may have shown more in this loss and the one in Cleveland than in their many home wins over injured opponents.
At times the Bulls offense looked incredible. The Bulls made a conscious effort to really push the ball whenever they got the opportunity, leading to some easy and eye-pleasing baskets. Especially early, where Kris Dunn had a couple great inside finishes and every Bull who touched the floor contributed part of their 38 points.
Nice finish from Dunn on a broken play pic.twitter.com/hT3fxYyvJm— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) December 31, 2017
Dunn, returning after a one-game absence, continued with his solid-if-unspectacular performances as he took 17 shots for his 19 points and went 1-5 from three, adding 11 assists but subtracting 3 turnovers and 5 fouls. He tried to take over late again, waving off or ignoring a wide-open Mirotic on two late possessions, hitting one but missing the next one that kept the Bulls at a losing distance. Niko was spectacular again, for a Bulls-high 21 points in 28 minutes, though he had 4 turnovers himself. As the Bulls built up a double-digit lead early, the Wiz would go on runs but it was typically a Niko or Robin Lopez (7-8 from the field) made basked that would keep the lead intact.
Love watching this unselfish play pic.twitter.com/g3oIUqbO9j— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 31, 2017
Another standout Bull was David Nwaba, who is a one-man fast break whenever possible, plus did a great job frustrating John Wall when Dunn was unavailable with foul trouble.
But while Wall was somewhat pedestrian, Bradley Beal lit up everyone (especially Paul Zipser, who got a long try at guarding him for some reason) for 39 points, 19 of which coming in the 4th quarter including a time where had 15 straight Washington points. He also had 9 points and 9 assists.
The Wizards looked extremely potent in stretches helped by Beal’s three-point shooting (7-13 from distance) but also 6 makes from the bench led by Mike Scott’s 3. As a team the Wizards shot 44.4% from beyond the arc, whereas the Bulls were below 23%. Dunn’s struggles were mentioned but Justin Holiday went 1-6 (including a key late miss), Denzel Valentine was 1-4, and we cursed Jerian Grant into a 0-4 performance.
But the Bulls looked really good for most of this game, mostly due to the pace leading to inside finishes but also the effort plays to generate them. The Bulls had a nearly 21% offensive rebound percentage, but the Wizards bested them at 26.5%. It was an issue that reared its ugly head in the final twenty seconds of the game down two points, after Beal missed both FTs the Bulls couldn’t secure the rebound as it eventually went to Wall who hit the pair and sealed the victory.
Washington has struggled against below-.500 teams all year, but the Bulls have played above that level in the Niko era and continued that today despite the final result. They have a tough back-to-back upcoming as the host the TrailBlazers.