Bulls come up short in Washington, 112-107

The Bulls battled back from a 19-point halftime deficit to within two points and one several times late in the fourth quarter. But they could not make that last crucial defensive play or shot and lost to the Washington Wizards 112-107.

The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 28 points and Robin Lopez with a season high 25 points and 12 rebounds. Nikola Mirotic had 15 points and 11 for Denzel Valentine. John Wall had 14 points and 20 assists. The Bulls finished with a 52-41 rebounding advantage with a big second half.

The Bulls fell to 32-37 and have lost seven of eight. The Wizards are 42-26.

Dwyane Wade, of course, is out for the remainder of the season with an elbow injury. Cameron Payne remained out with foot problems. Paul Zipser slid into the open starting spot with Wade out and Michael Carter-Williams the backup point guard to Rajon Rondo. Despite a sore foot coming into the game, Wizards star John Wall started for Washington. Markieff Morris was out for Washington. Though it was Wall who made the difference to start with eight first quarter assists as after a slow start, Washington pushed the ball for scores with Wall running. The Wizards also were the aggressors going after the ball with second shots and gathering in loose balls. Butler and Lopez did what they could, scoring 21 of the Bulls 23 first quarter points, 13 from Lopez. But the Bulls remained in considerable isolation play and trailed 29-23 after one quarter. The Wizards pushed their lead into double digits to open the second quarter with the shooting of Jason Smith. The Bulls stayed within range trailing 41-34 as Cristiano Felicio retrieved a pair of misses and Zipser and Carter-Williams scored. Though when Lopez and Butler returned, the Bulls slowed the pace again and fell behind 47-36. But Lopez didn’t tough the ball for three minutes after he got back in after the big first quarter. The Wizards continued to pass the ball with Wall into double digits in assists in the first half while the Bulls committed 12 first half turnovers for 19 Washington points. Wall then made his only field goal, to end the half, a three for a 59-40 Washington halftime lead.

The Bulls again had opportunities as the Wizards opened the third quarter missing shots as they did the first quarter. But Zipser missed four of six shots in the first three minutes. The Bulls got within 68-57 after Butler and Lopez got more involved, but the Bulls defense continued to give up penetration and fast breaks as Washington took a 75-61 lead with 2:55 left in the third quarter. Lopez then continued to work the boards, repeatedly scoring on second shots to keep the Bulls close. Lopez had a season high points with 23 through three quarters and trailed 84-73 entering the fourth quarter. The Bulls then played their best defense of the gane, Carter-Williams aggressive picking up at half court and he and Mirotic scoring on drives. That sent the Wizards into a quick timeout leading 87-81 and then the Bulls within 91-87 midway through the fourth quarter. Wall and Bradley Beal came back in and Beal immediately made a three. But the Bulls showed the commitment they lacked in the first half with  Valentine and Mirotic threes, the latter with 1:25 to bring the Bulls within 104-102. But the Bulls could not thwart Wall’s deft passing for Washington’s inside scores. A Butler three got the Bulls within one with 39 seconds left. But the Bulls appeared to get a bad break on a late foul call against Valentine on what seemed like a simple box out. The two free throws gave Washington a three-point lead with 18.4 seconds left. Butler then missed a late three in an attempt to tie.