Just like the last game against the Warriors, something had to give when the 0-3 Bulls faced the 0-3 Wizards in the nation’s capital on Tuesday night. This time around, the Bulls came out on top in a 115-107 victory to give Billy Donovan his first win in Chicago.
The first half certainly looked like two 0-3 teams, with both squads tossing up plenty of bricks (Raul Neto, woof) and the Wizards this time being the team to throw the ball all over the place. Washington missed 11 straight shots at one point in the second quarter after taking a two-point lead, but the Bulls weren’t able to pull away during this stretch.
Fortunately, the Wizards went cold again to end the half, and Otto Porter Jr. found the range (14 of his 16 points in the first half) to help Chicago build up a 52-46 advantage at the break. The first half ended with Washington simply running out the clock and not even getting a shot up, which was a perfect encapsulation of their putrid first-half performance.
The Wizards came out with a little burst to start the third quarter, trimming the margin to two and forcing an early timeout. But Patrick Williams stemmed the tide with a trio of big buckets, plus a Wendell Carter Jr. basket mixed in. The three baskets were a 3-pointer, one of his patented hanging mid-range push shots and this incredible tip-in over fellow rookie Deni Avdija:
I continue to be impressed by how good Patrick Williams is at these corner crashes. Watch him fly in from the bottom right corner of the screen. pic.twitter.com/p3pBn7pFqv— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 30, 2020
The Bulls were never really threatened the rest of the game. They took an 83-73 lead into the fourth quarter and quickly extended that to 92-73 with a 9-0 run to start the final frame. A bit of sloppiness (the Bulls did take care of the ball well through the first three quarters) and Washington finally finding its offense made the final score a bit closer, but Chicago’s 64.7% shooting in the fourth quarter helped offset the six turnovers.
After Porter had it going against his former team in the first half, it was Tomas Satoransky who burned his team and finished the job in the fourth quarter. Sato scored all 10 of his points in the fourth while also dishing out three of his six assists. Another former Wizard, Garrett Temple, also played a key role in the fourth quarter and throughout the game (12 points, +14 in 29 minutes).
The Bulls had plenty of scoring balance on the evening, with Zach LaVine’s 23 points leading seven players in double figures and Carter posting another double-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. They were aggressive going to the basket, resulting in 32 free-throw attempts, but they also buried 15 3-pointers after hitting 17 last game.
LaVine and Coby White had solid all-around games in the backcourt, with both players posting six assists and five rebounds while combining for only five turnovers. LaVine added four steals as the Wizards coughed the ball up 21 times on the evening. Russell Westbrook had six of those miscues, but at least he got another triple-double. Bradley Beal had five turnovers of his own as part of a rather quiet 29-point night.
If there’s a negative to come from this game, it’s that Lauri Markkanen re-aggravated the calf injury he suffered last game. Markkanen tried to play and showed plenty of aggression in the first half, especially going at Davis Bertans, but he asked to come out early in the third quarter and never returned. It’s unclear if he’ll play when the Bulls face the Wizards again on New Year’s Eve.
While this game wasn’t always pretty, it’s nice for the Bulls to finally get in the win column after taking care of business against a struggling Wizards team. I’m really curious how much longer Scott Brooks will be coaching that team, because they were lethargic and sloppy for most of the night in a game they were favored rather heavily in. To essentially get run off the floor by the Bulls on their home court to drop to 0-4 is a brutal look.
Of course, Chicago deserves credit for keeping the foot on the neck in the second half and actually building up a big lead, instead of squandering the game away like the other night. The overall effort was much more encouraging, and the Bulls will be feeling a bit better about themselves heading into Thursday’s rematch.