Johnson: Bulls hold off Wizards

Johnson: Bulls hold off Wizards
March 16, 2011, 2:33 am
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011 10:44 p.m.
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By Dave Johnson
CSNwashington.comChicago -- The Chicago Bulls were trying to grab the top spot in the NBAs Eastern Conference. The Washington Wizards were just trying to put a team on the court. Against that backdrop the Wizards delivered one of their most inspired efforts of the season before losing 98-79.The score did not tell the story. Missing five players because of injuries, including their top two scorers, the Wizards battled through an early 17-point deficit to make it a one-point game shortly before halftime. In the second half the Wizards were not able to get as close, but held the Bulls to 40 percent shooting from the field for the game.The focus on defense gave the Wizards at least a chance. JaVale McGees determination to protect the rim led to a career high 12 blocks and a triple-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Using a 2-3 zone defense the Wizards forced the Bulls to the outside where they did make 12 three-pointers.He impacted the game, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. I would like to see us pulling up more in an in between game or going to the hoop and laying it off to the big man. He is a hard guy to shoot over. With his athleticism, on defense he has a great impact on the game.Led by John Wall, who played through a bruised left foot, the Wizards started three rookies. Trevor Booker and Jordan Crawford joined McGee and Yi Jianlian in the starting five. Nick Young (sore left knee) and Josh Howard (left knee) joined Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis and Cartier Martin in street clothes with injuries.The guys played hard but just ran out of gas, Wizards head coach Flip Saunders noted. Our guards (Wall and Crawford) played 46 and 48 minutes. JaVale (McGee) played very well, especially defensively. He defended the pick and rolls well and really guarded the rim for us. Tonight I cannot fault the effort. To celebrate St. Patricks Day the Bulls donned green uniforms. Not only did they look like the Boston Celtics, the Bulls used the victory to take a half-game lead over the Celtics for first-place in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 23 points and 7 assists to secure their first 12-game home winning streak in 36 years.While Rose had his points, the Bulls work on the boards turned out to be the difference. Without Joakim Noah (flu) and Carlos Boozer (left ankle), the Bulls still had a 51-42 advantage in rebounds. They had 20 offensive rebounds with 24 second-chance points to make up for a poor shooting night.Filling-in for Young, Crawford scored like Young and led the Wizards with a game-high 27 points. Wall contributed a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and in 40-minutes, his most of the season, Yi finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds.Tonight we didn't hang our heads. In the first half we were down 17 and were able to get it back to within one. In the second half we fell back again and cut it to 12 then missed three free throws. Our rookies are growing and learning. If we can keep up this kind of effort, I see there will be a lot of opportunity for us in the future.