8:00 PM ET, January 13, 2014
United Center, Chicago, IL
CHICAGO -- The Washington Wizards are winning more on the road than they are at home. They can't quite pinpoint why.
"We just play more freely," Marcin Gortat said. "We can focus in the hotel. In the locker room, we're just sitting in one little room and trying to get ready for the game. I don't know, at home there's just too many rooms, too many places where you can go. Too many places where you can dance and sing."
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The Bulls played like a team that was confident it would be able to beat the Wizards. Problem was, no matter how many times Washington allowed Chicago to crawl back into the game, the Bulls could never take full advantage, Nick Friedell writes. Blog
The Wizards led by 13 early in the fourth and hung on down the stretch after a 12-point lead was cut to five, snapping the Bulls' five-game win streak.
Nene scored eight points in the final period after getting the start, and Bradley Beal came on strong down the stretch to finish with 13. He hit a jumper and 3-pointer during a nine-point run that bumped Washington's lead to 96-82 with about three minutes left.
Wall hit two jumpers during that spurt and had seven assists in the game.
Ariza hit a trio of 3-pointers, and the Wizards shot 52 percent to come away with the win after dropping five of seven.
They're 10-10 on the road and 7-9 at home, where they'll play Miami on Wednesday.
"It's kind of hurting us that we don't play as a team at home," Wall said. "We don't come out with a sense of urgency and we get down early."
But in this game, it was exactly the opposite.
The Wizards never trailed. They led by as many as 15 in the second quarter and withstood several pushes by the Bulls in the second half.
"Everybody probably thought they were tanking and they were going to try to redo their team," Wall said. "They're still one of the best defensive teams in the league."
Carlos Boozer scored 19 for Chicago, and Joakim Noah grabbed 16 rebounds. But with a chance to reach .500 for the first time since November, the Bulls committed 18 turnovers. They also lost for the first time since trading Luol Deng to Cleveland last week, after winning three without him.
"Games like this humble you," Taj Gibson said. "Right when you're feeling too good about yourself, you're feeling invincible, a team comes in there and smacks you, wakes you up to reality."
Washington had no trouble getting inside in the early going and shot 59 percent while building a 56-43 halftime lead.
The Bulls jumped right back into it to start the third quarter, tightening their defense while scoring the first eight points.
Boozer capped it with a finger roll after Beal missed an easy layup, making it a five-point game.
For Chicago, it was a letdown after a promising stretch. Coach Tom Thibodeau didn't "think we had an edge tonight."
That was clear right from the start, with the Wizards opening the game on an 8-0 run that Gortat punctuated with a hard, running dunk on Boozer. They were up 36-21 early in the second after back-to-back jumpers by Beal, and they answered every time the Bulls threatened in the second half.
"We kept saying we'll work our way out of it," Thibodeau said. "Well, you can't keep saying, you've got to do it. I've got to make sure that we're ready."
Chicago star Derrick Rose is off crutches and could start traveling with the team in the coming weeks. The 2011 NBA MVP tore the meniscus in his right knee at Portland in November and was ruled out for the remainder of the season by the Bulls. He sat out last season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. ... Chicago's Nazr Mohammed sprained his left middle finger in the first half, but Thibodeau didn't think it was broken. ... The Bulls have won nine of their past 11 home games against Washington.
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 13: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards moves the ball past Jimmy Butler #21 of the...(Photo by Ray Amati/NBAE via Getty Images)
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MVP: John Wall didn't have the most impressive stat line of the night, but Washington's win came on the strength of early offense, before Chicago's defense was set. And Wall's pushing the ball put them in that position.
X factor: Nene Hilario was tied for a game-high 19 points, but it was his work from the elbow that most stood out for the Wizards. His ability to make the extra pass or knock down a jumper often froze the Bulls' defense.
That was ... ungrateful: Both teams afforded each other plenty of free throws, but neither seemed keen on the free points. Washington and Chicago were a combined 28-of-47 (59.6 percent) from the line on the night.
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