There wasn’t much wizardly to be found with either team Saturday in the United Center as the Washington Wizards defeated the Bulls 101-90.
There also was no Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for the Bulls, which was another problem.
The Bulls looked like frozen ice fishermen after a long day to start the game after the fabulous win Friday night against Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wizards were basically without their All-Star backcourt, John Wall injured and Bradley Beal having his poorest game of the season, missing all seven of this threes and shooting three of 13 for seven points.
The Bulls would, in effect, be taken out by Tomas Satoransky, the Czech mate who set a career high with 25 points, making 10 of 12 shots and five of six threes as the Bulls never really seemed to believe he was in the scouting report. And then Bobby Portis just took out Satoransky, Portis called for a flagrant foul 2 and ejected with 2:35 left in the game as Satoransky was driving baseline for a dunk.
It didn’t much matter, at least for the final result if not for Satoransky’s health, as the Bulls were in the midst of the the last four minutes of the game failing to score a point in missing their last seven shots. It wasn’t unlike the start of the game when the Bulls missed five of their first six shots with a pair of turnovers, trailed 9-2 and never led again after their 2-0 start.
It wasn’t happening on this night as the Bulls dropped to 19-36. Washington is 32-24.
The Bulls had six players score in double figures led by Justin Holiday with just 15 points. Portis had 13. Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez and David Nwaba each had 12, Jerian Grant 11 and Denzel Valentine, starting for the resting LaVine, 10. LaVine isn’t playing the second of back to backs now as a precaution. Markkanen and Valentine had double/doubles with 10 rebounds each. Grant added eight assists and Holiday four steals.
“I thought we did a great job of hanging in there when they got up double digits on us,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “We found a way to cut that thing back to seven and had a great shot by one of our best shooters to cut it to four (by Markkaken with 3:40 left). Then they, in turn, come down and answer with a three of their own.”
And that was it, it being Satoransky’s fifth three with 3:25 left for a 100-90 lead.
The Bulls weren’t making any big run in this game without their two closers, LaVine and Dunn. And with the Wizards figuring out, “Hey, no LaVine and Dunn. We’ll stay with that Markkanen guy.”
Markkanen missed once more before the Wizards rebounded another Beal miss. Satoransky firing in along the left baseline got a pass and went for the dunk. Portis went for the ball (Bulls version). Portis took down Satoransky while he was off balance in the air (Washington and officials’ version). And the Bulls blended slowly into defeat. Satoransky was escorted to the locker room.
The Wizards were farther away down there other end of the floor, which is perhaps why they saw it differently.
“Everybody knows the (unwritten) rule,” said Washington coach Scott Brooks about upsetting a player off the ground and off balance. “It’s a dangerous play. If (Portis) had to do it all over again, he probably would have taken it back. It’s unfortunate it happened, but [Satoransky] is going to be alright.”
That was the best news the Bulls might have heard after the game, though the emotional Wizards broadcasters were having none of it, screaming for Portis to be suspended. Remember, they get very emotional in Washington.
Not so much in Chicago on this night; certainly not like Friday night, and not that much overall in a mostly pedestrian effort with a lot too many quick shots except for a nice sequence in the second quarter of multiple possessions with rebounds, head up and passes down court for scores. It really was the best and only true run for the Bulls in the game, a slick four minutes after the Bulls trailed 37-26 early in the second quarter. It was 30-22 Washington after one.
“It had nothing to do with effort,” insisted Hoiberg. “Our guys came out after a tough night, emotional night. It had a little something, probably, to do with the start. We hung in there, stayed in the game and had a chance, and that’s all we can ask from our guys. Go out and play hard, play with effort and play together. I thought they did that.”
That sequence with Valentine, Grant and Ryan Arcidiacono all making long, upcourt passes for scores enabled the Bulls to get within 45-43 with a Markkanen follow score.
With Markkanen’s return Friday after missing three games with personal leave, there were questions about whether he was being ignored too much on offense.
Hey, pick me, pick me, I know.
The problem the Bulls have, especially without Dunn, who could return later this week, is the lack of point guard penetration where Markkanen can pop out for shots. LaVine had it going against Minnesota, and you would not want to break a run like that just to get Markkanen a few shots. Grant has played well, but he doesn’t particularly penetrate and pitch. And Holiday and Portis tend to shoot pretty much when they get the ball. There’s not a lot of ball movement without Dunn sometimes. Plus, Markkanen is unselfish and will move the ball. It just doesn’t seem to get back too often.
Markkanen was an ugly five of 19 and one of eight on threes. But after not getting the ball the first eight minutes again it appeared he also began to force some shots. It’s a bit much to recover from with Markkanen missing with Dunn and LaVine missing, as it were.
“We came out a little lazy, a little tired, to start the game,” agreed Grant. “We waited to get our legs under us, and by the end (of the first quarter) we were down double digits. He (Satoransky) hit a lot of shots. He was the guy we kind of wanted to help off a little bit and make sure we contested his shots, but he hit them.”
Sounds like Grant may have read the wrong scouting report since Satoransky is shooting 44 percent on threes this season. Though the Bulls did leave him alone on his threes most of the time.
“We scored ninety-something points,” said Grant. “So if you put (LaVine’s) 20 points in there, I feel like we’re right there.”
Well, he did have a point there there.
The Wizards gathered after that second quarter Bulls play to take a 56-46 halftime lead. The Bulls going the next six possessions after that 45-43 mark with half turnovers and half misses didn’t work so well. Oh, Zach, where art thou?
Lopez had an active third quarter that included his career high ninth technical foul for running to David Nwaba’s defense when he got into a little pushing thing with Mike Scott. You have to love that teammate. Still, the Bulls trailed 82-70 after three quarters when Portis went offensive again. He’d taken five straight shots early in the second quarter and then three of the Bulls first four to start the fourth. Hey, someone’s got to take those Nikola Mirotic quick ones. Washington also was scoring. The Bulls had that 11-2 run after trailing in the fourth by 16 to get within 97-90 with 4:12 left. Then came Markkanen’s miss and Portis not missing Satoransky.
“I was really pleased with the way the guys kept battling and going out there and playing together and finding a way to get back into that game and having a chance to win it,” said Hoiberg. “We defended much better in the second half. We’ve got to get off to better starts. They (LaVine and Markkanen) haven’t played a lot together. Last game, Zach had one of those stretches where the only thing he was looking at was the rim. The way Zach got rolling the other night, he needed to look to be aggressive. Kris Dunn has done a great job of attacking or making the ontime pass. Zach is getting more comfortable playing with Lauri. When everyone is back on the floor we are going to have a lot of options. Looking forward having those three out there together.”
For what would be just the fourth time this season. That should be entertaining.