Despite the Chicago Bulls missing four key players, their offense was once again clicking against the Washington Wizards. For the second straight game, they had seven players in double digits, led by the 28 points of Otto Porter Jr. and the 22 of Zach LaVine. In the final seconds, it was defensive plays by Chicago’s backcourt of LaVine and Coby White which helped seal a victory and stop a comeback effort by Washington. This followed by clutch free throw shooting helped Chicago to a 133-130 win, their second straight of the season,
The first quarter belonged to the Wizards offense. Chicago gave up 41 points in the first frame as the home team could not stop scoring, taking advantage of mistakes by the Bulls defense. Rui Hachimura, who was making his season debut, and Bradley Beal led the way with 10 points each. Chicago struggled to stop the pick and roll with the issue of getting over screens arising once again. Beal had numerous of attempts in the lane and it put a strain on the Bulls big men. The Wizards also started out hot from three, making six of their eight attempts in the quarter. If not for the Bulls offense, this one could have gotten ugly early.
Starting due to the absence of Lauri Markkanen, Porter Jr. made his presence felt early. He had eight points and along with Daniel Gafford, helped give the Bulls a spark in the first half. The big man, who also got minutes because of absences in Chicago’s rotation, gave an instant impact.
Gafford has 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in 6 minutes.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 31, 2020
At the end of the first quarter it was 41-35 Wizards.
Things began to swing Chicago’s way at the start of the second quarter as they went on a 11-3 run to take the lead. Once again it was the duo of Porter Jr. and Gafford who contributed in this run. They ended up being the leading scorers for the Bulls at the half with 13 points each.
Washington did respond with a run of their own, scoring 10 straight points to re-take the lead. In his first game action this season, Thad Young had a good first half and the Bulls offense hummed along a lot better when he was on the court.
Chicago battled back and re-took the lead five minutes later thanks to a three-point by White. He knocked down three shots from deep in the second quarter including one with 4.2 seconds left to give Chicago a 71-68 lead.
If there was one Wizard that Chicago couldn’t stop in the first half it was Thomas Bryant. He played a perfect game offensively, going eight of eight from the field for 22 points.
The third quarter again started off with a run but this time it was by the Wizards. They went on a 10-2 run in the opening three minutes to turn a three point deficit into a five point lead.
Once again it was Porter Jr. who helped right the ship. He scored 11 points in the quarter as the Bulls not only took the lead again but built up on it. They even took a double digit lead in a stretch which saw Carter Jr. score seven straight points with all of them coming off the same offensive sequence. The ball movement by Chicago was fantastic as they were making the extra pass to open guys and were finding easy baskets because of it. It was some of the best offensive basketball we have seen from this team in a long time.
However, back to back three’s by the Wizards helped them close the gap to seven when the third ended. It was the second straight quarter where the Bulls scored 36 points as they took a 107-100 lead into the fourth.
After a blistering pace to the first 36 minutes of the game, the final quarter saw both teams start off slow. This especially applied to the Bulls, who only got to double digits points in the fourth after nearly six minutes of game action. The Wizards re-took the lead with 4:49 left thanks to a three-pointer from Raul Neto as Chicago continued to go cold from the field. The drought was finally stopped thanks to a three-point play by LaVine.
It was a back and forth game the whole way and it seemed we were heading for a frantic finish. LaVine and Russell Westbrook traded baskets before free throws by White gave the Bulls a 129-128 advantage with a minute left to go.
LaVine came up with one of the plays of the game and it was on the defense end. He stayed with Westbrook on the drive and blocked him as soon as he tried to flip up a shot. LaVine on the subsequent offensive possession found Young in the paint but he couldn’t finish, leaving Washington in prime position to take the final shot. The Wizards had a perfect play out of the timeout and it saw Beal with an open lane to the rim with no Bull even close to him. But White came over and disrupted Beal enough for him to lose the ball.
Two free throw makes later, Chicago had a 131-128 lead to hold onto with 14.2 seconds left. The Bulls did a great job of forcing Davis Bertans to take a fade-away three but Westbrook got in front of LaVine and grabbed the offensive rebound. He was fouled and knocked down both free throws. The pressure was back on Chicago and LaVine again came up with two huge free throw makes. With no timeouts, the Wizards were down to one hail mary pass. Bryant couldn’t handle the full court pass and it was over.
Despite having three players score over 20 points, Washington wasn’t able to get the victory. Bryant had a quiet second half, scoring only five points in 28 point night. Westbrook got another triple double (22 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) while Beal had 28 of his own while doing 12 of 13 from the line. Raul Neto also had 15 off the bench.
Chicago’s reserves ended up with 41 points on the day thanks to 15 from both Gafford and Young. White ended up picking up a double double with 16 points and 10 assists along with six rebounds. The Bulls are now 2-4 on the season and will play the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow.