Bulls blown out by Wall, Wizards in DC

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Bulls blown out by Wall, Wizards in DC

WASHINGTON If any contest could be circled on the schedule as a so-called trap game, it would be Saturday nights affair at the Verizon Center.

With the Bulls (26-17) flying high, riding a three-game winning streak and coming off a game in Chicago the previous evening, the upstart Wizards (11-31), who have been playing much-improved basketball as of late, pulled off a shocker, winning 86-73, spoiling Joakim Noahs stellar all-around outing and a game-high scoring effort from Nate Robinson.

Propelled by point guard John Wall (15 points, seven assists), in his second start of the regular season the former No. 1 overall draft pick has led Washington to a 5-3 record since returning from a knee injury, the same number of wins the team had in the first 33 games of the campaign the Wizards jumped out to a quick start.

Forced to play catch-up, the Bulls made it a close-knit affair, led by balanced scoringaided by Rip Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer continued their recent scoring upticks and Noahs (nine points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists) blend of rebounding and playmaking.

Still, the hosts maintained a narrow edge over their guests, as the likes of veteran center Emeka Okafor (15 points, 16 rebounds), who contributed solid interior play, made an impact, though the visitors overall lackluster play certainly had an influence, too.

But despite their apparent lack of focus in the early going, the Bulls escaped the opening period with a 24-23 advantage, following a bank shot by backup point guard Nate Robinson (19 points) with 1.9 seconds left in the first quarter.

Bench production from Robinson, backcourt partner Marco Belinelli and reserve big man Taj Gibson sparked the Bulls at the outset of the second quarter, though their efforts were countered by Washingtons cadre of reinforcements.

Second-string point guard A.J. Price and the frontcourt trio of Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin technically a 2010 Bulls draft pick, the center was sent to the Wizards with Hinrich, ending the veteran floor generals original Bulls stint valiantly made it a back-and-forth affair, until Robinsons blend of playmaking and instant-offense scoring gave the visitors some breathing room.

Washington responded, however, going on an 11-0 run to suddenly turn the tables and getting a rise out of the largely apathetic crowd, via Walls playmaking, veteran big man Nenes (16 points) work in the paint and backup guard Jordan Crawfords explosive scoring.

Robinson ended the spurt with a triple and the teams exchanged baskets for the remainder of the half, sending the Bulls into the intermission trailing, 50-44.

After the break, the Wizards, led by the big-man tandem of Okafor and Nene, picked up where they left off, going on a 10-2 run at the outset of the third quarter to put the visitors in a double-digit hole, prompting a timeout by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Perhaps a bit frustrated, Boozers elbow connected with Okafors face as the former tried to gain post-up position, resulting in a flagrant foul, subsequently followed by Boozer again leveling Okafor on the next possession.

Boozer was hit with a technical for his actions, as well as his fourth foul Nene seemingly retaliated by knocking down Noah, who played peacemaker in the aforementioned situation, showing that tensions had escalated on both side but regardless of any potential altercations, Washington was still in control of the contest, also enjoying a gradually-ballooning lead.

Aside from the on-court drama, the Bulls also struggled with ball-security issues, defensive lapses the Wizards dominated their guests in the paint, usually a point of pride for the visitors vaunted defense and generally sloppy play, leading to a 73-55 deficit heading into the final stanza.

Although the Wizards briefly enjoyed a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls fought back, going on a 7-0 run to make their uphill battle more manageable with a lineup that featured recent acquisition Daequan Cook.

With Robinson leading the charge and pressure defense applied to their opponents, the Bulls continued to chip away, making it a 10-point game with 7:12 remaining in the contest, making it a question of whether the visitors had enough juice to pull off a comeback, assuming the hosts ran out of gas.

Heading into the games stretch run, the Bulls couldnt make up enough ground to seriously challenge Washington, which played stout enough defense and made enough timely shots to keep the visitors at bay, despite Robinsons virtuoso scoring efforts and Noahs yeoman-like performance on the glass and as a playmaker, as well as extended pressure by the team on the defensive end of the floor.

As it finally became apparent that the Bulls wouldnt be able to make the comeback, Thibodeau inserted deep reserves like rookie Marquis Teague and backup center Nazr Mohammed, putting an end to a rough night.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you're ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Bulls fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Bulls Pulse

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

The NBA announced Saturday that it has suspended former Bulls and current Knicks center Joakim Noah for 20 games without pay for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

He tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement called selective androgen receptor modulator LGD-4033, which is prohibited under the current collective bargaining agreement but would not have been under the new CBA starting next year, according to ESPN's Marc Spears.

It was announced in February that Noah would miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. His suspension will carry over into the 2017-18 campaign with only 10 games left this year.

Noah averaged 5.0 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game in 46 games in his first of a four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks.