Shorthanded Bulls fall to Wizards on John Wall's late jumper

Shorthanded Bulls fall to Wizards on John Wall's late jumper

WASHINGTON, D.C.—It wasn’t exactly a wasted effort by the Chicago Bulls, as they learned a couple valuable lessons in their 101-99 loss to the Washington Wizards once Doug McDermott's fifth triple try wound up like all the rest: Not getting to the bottom of the net.

"I just gotta make that shot," McDermott said, going through the shooting motion in the Verizon Center hallway, wishing he could have come off his opposite shoulder, believing had he been just as open, the Bulls would have pulled off the improbable upset as opposed to licking their wounds after blowing a surprising 61-43 first half lead.

McDermott's confidence in himself and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg's confidence in him was evident, as the play was drawn up for McDermott to win the game late—a position many didn't predict the Bulls to be in with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Nikola Mirotic out.

Another position many didn't expect the Bulls to be in was the re-emergence of Rajon Rondo, who apparently earned himself an opportunity to play with the attrition of the existing personnel, and did enough in 27 minutes to make Hoiberg say he'll play Thursday in New York against the Knicks.

Rondo was a whirling dervish at times, playing with as much energy as some of the wide-eyed youngsters who finally got off the pine, playing without looking over their shoulders.

Defending well, getting three steals and pushing the pace, Rondo scored 12 points with six assists and four rebounds, making six of his 13 shots after being the first substitution off the bench, helping the Bulls storm a Wizards team that was obviously disappointed to be playing against something other than top-flight competition.

"I thought Rondo was really good," Hoiberg said. "I thought our pace, especially in the first half, was excellent. When he was in the game, it was good to see him aggressive, looking to score. He gave us a real lift."

Rondo didn't seem too impressed with his play one way or the other, preferring to heap praise on the younger players, like Denzel Valentine.

"He put the ball in the hole. Given an opportunity, a little bit more freedom today," Rondo said. "I was just trying to bring energy off the bench and push the pace. It's what I do."

Another lesson is that Valentine and Bobby Portis proved they belonged on an NBA court, displaying the verve and moxie that usually doesn't come with just playing a handful of games three months into an NBA season.

Portis hit shot 5-for-8 in 17 minutes, including three triples to score 13 points with seven rebounds. He played the way that hasn't been seen since his rookie year when filling in for Joakim Noah in the early going.

Valentine did his best to make up for what McDermott lacked at the 3-point line, hitting five triples on his way to 19 points in 30 minutes, hitting 7 of 11 overall. Spot-up shots and step-in triples, he didn't seem fazed by the task of going against more seasoned players in John Wall and Bradley Beal.

"I had a big first half, I shot it well, did some good things," Valentine said. "I probably could've made a couple more plays down the stretch but credit to them. They turned it up."

The Bulls offense came back to earth after a sterling first half, as they hit just 2 of 17 in the second half from the 3-point line when trying to keep the Wizards at bay.

"We had some good looks that didn't go down," Hoiberg said. "It wasn't because of lack of effort that we lost the game. We went out there and fought them to the end."

Six Bulls scored in double figures despite shooting just 40 percent from the field, and turning it over 18 times didn’t help matters, but the Wizards gave it away 21 times for 28 Bulls points.

After Valentine hit a triple to put the Bulls up 92-85 with seven minutes left in the fourth, he did a bit of a shimmy on the Wizards' end of the floor, filled with adrenaline and positive reinforcement.

Unfortunately, he learned a rookie lesson because Wizards All-Star guard John Wall was watching and used that little dance as motivation. Wall took over down the stretch, hitting a free-throw line jumper to tie the game and then another mid-range shot with 5 seconds left to give the Wizards a 101-99 lead.

It put a finishing touch on Wall's 26-point, 14-assist night and he passed on a message to Valentine before the final part of the onslaught.

"I play with a lot of emotion just like him," Wall told CSNMA.com's J.Michael. "I understand where he's coming from. I just said, 'Don't celebrate this early. You're a rookie. You haven't earned those stripes yet.' I told him, 'That's how you feel? You woke up a monster.' I just went on a scoring spree."

Usually, it's the Bulls who have their closer handling business down the stretch. For a night, they got to see what life was like on the other side—with a little drama and intrigue on their end, because that's seemingly what they do best.

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

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Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.