Bulls come up empty in Washington

The Washington Wizards Wednesday made the Bulls disappear early in a dominating 117-96 victory.

The Bulls fell back to 33-33 while the Wizards moved to 32-35 and gained the playoff tiebreaker, if necessary, over the Bulls with a 2-1 season edge. The Bulls play Brooklyn in the United Center Thursday.

The Bulls were led by Doug McDermott with 20 points. Jimmy Butler had 17 points and Derrick Rose had 16 points. Justin Holiday had 13. John Wall had a triple double for Washington with 29 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. The Wizards were 13 of 21 on threes and had 25 fast break points.

The Bulls got good news to start with the return of Derrick Rose after missing two games with a groin strain and Mike Dunleavy after missing the win in Toronto Monday with the flu. Pau Gasol remained back in Chicago for treatment of his knee strain. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Gasol still wouldn’t be ready when the team returns to play the Brooklyn Nets Thursday. So the Bulls still are looking to have their full starting lineup for just the second time this season.

The Wizards came out fast, pushing the ball to a 9-2 and 15-6 start four minutes into the game. It was an unusually quiet start as the city’s metro system was shut down for the day with fans arriving during the first half. The Bulls were late arrivals as well as after falling behind 18-8 as the Wizards had eight first quarter fast break points, the Bulls began to recover behind the shooting of McDermott and the speed of Rose.

The Bulls pulled within 32-25 after one and surged into a 43-38 lead with Justin Holiday adding a pair of strong drives to Rose and McDermott scores The Wizards’ Marcin Gortat didn’t start with back soreness and old nemesis Nene was strong rolling to the basket. But it was the Wizards drive and kick game that gave the Bulls the biggest kick in the gut. With John Wall penetrating for 14 points and seven assists in the first half, reserve Garrett Temple got loose and made all five threes he attempted to give Washington a 63-52 halftime lead. Rose had 14 at the half and McDermott 13, but Taj Gibson had to leave late in the second quarter with an apparent hamstring injury. The other four starters besides Rose combined for 13 points and the Wizards had 15 first half fast break points with 16 assists. It was 45-45 with about five minutes left in the first half when Washington’s three point shooting, eight of 10 in the fist half, made the difference.

Gibson didn’t return for the second half as the Bulls went with rookie Bobby Portis to start and just didn’t have enough. The Wizards continued their hot three-point shooting to take a quick 71-54 lead. Butler got a little bit going with a pair of steals and then being flagrantly fouled on a breakaway with 8:25 left in the third quarter and the Bulls getting four straight. But Wall’s end to end speed was dominant, especially with a late steal and nearly jumping over Aaron Brooks for a flying floater finish. That was part of a 16-9 run that enabled the Wizards to pull away to a 92-74 lead after three quarters.