Bulls

Bradley Beal, Wizards hold off Bulls for win

Bradley Beal, Wizards hold off Bulls for win

WASHINGTON (AP) Playing their first game without Dwyane Wade, the Chicago Bulls almost pulled off an improbable comeback against the Washington Wizards.

That's small consolation for a struggling team fighting for a playoff spot.

Bradley Beal scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, John Wall dished out a career-high 20 assists to go with 14 points, and the Wizards held on to defeat the Bulls 112-107 on Friday night.

Minus Wade, whose fractured elbow will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, the Bulls were down 19 points at halftime before getting as close as one.

"I hate this word, `soft.' I hate it, but that's exactly what we were," Butler said of his team's start. "They beat us to every 50-50 ball, worked our tail in transition, we turned the ball over. Those things that we've talked about all year long replayed in that first half."

Chicago rallied and eventually had a chance to tie it, but a well-guarded Butler missed a 3-pointer from the wing with 3.9 seconds left.

"I'll take that shot," Butler said. "Maybe I should've side-stepped a little bit. You can say all this stuff now, but I had a great look at it."

Butler finished with 28 points and Robin Lopez added a season-high 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, who began the night in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, and have lost seven of eight.

Wall, playing despite spraining his left foot in Wednesday's loss to Dallas, sank four free throws in the final minute, including two with 1.8 seconds left.

Washington's Jason Smith, starting in place of Markieff Morris who was a late scratch due to illness, tied his season high with 17 points and Ian Mahinmi had a season-high 16.

"It was solely attributed to John," Smith said of his output. "He was distributing the ball to everybody."

Washington, 21-4 in its last 25 games, had lost two straight, allowing 119 and 112 points.

"We got back to defending the right way, guarding our guy individually," Beal said. "They made some tough shots and some big 3's here and there, but for the most part I thought we did a solid job.

The Wizards led 49-40 late in the first half when Smith's jumper started a 10-0 run that was capped by Wall's 3-pointer that circled the rim and dropped as the half ended.

Those were Wall's only points of the half, but he had 12 assists.

"There's only a few guys in the league that can dominate a game with passing, and he's one of them," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.

The Bulls rally began in the third quarter and Nikola Mirotic's 3-pointer with 1:24 left pulled the Bulls within two at 104-102. Wall's 20th assist then produced Marcin Gortat's layup.

Butler hit a 3 to pull Chicago to within one with 39.7 seconds left before Otto Porter's two free throws put Washington up 110-107 with 18.4 seconds to go.

NBA Power Rankings: Breakout stars re-shaping the league

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USA TODAY

NBA Power Rankings: Breakout stars re-shaping the league

As we near the 15 games played mark, the league's top teams (and some of the struggling ones too) are being aided along by new developments in the playing styles' of their talent.

The Bulls have struggled mightliy with a large batch of regulars missing time but have seen tremendous growth from Zach LaVine, as well as rookies Wendell Carter and Chandler Hutchison. 

Over in the West, the Houston Rockets found out that success is not so easy to translate over to the next year. Their defensive efficiency has fallen and their offense has been largely ineffective, and it is no doubt connected to the loss of their defensive-minded wings in Luc Richard Mbah Moute and Trevor Ariza. It is not all on his shoulders, but the Carmelo Anthony experiment seems to be coming to an end just as quickly as it started. 

With the Bucks, Nuggets, Raptors and Sixers—following the massive news of the their Jimmy Butler acquisition—all looking to be real challenegers to the Golden State Warriors, the regular season wins race will be a little more interesting than usual. Home-court advanatge in the NBA Finals could be the difference between taking the Warriors 6+ games or being swept. 

So keep an eye on who is maintaining contol of the NBA's overall No. 1 playoff seed as the Dubs head into a tough three-game road trip in Texas. In this week's NBA Power Rankings, we take also take a look at which player has been on the verge of a breakout season for each team here. 

A letter to Timberwolves fans about Jimmy Butler

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USA TODAY

A letter to Timberwolves fans about Jimmy Butler

Hello Minnesota Timberwolves Fans, 

It's us, the Bulls Fans. We don’t know how to say this... we just hope you’re doing okay. We know this weekend was bitter for some of you and maybe sweet for others...if only there was a word to capture that feeling! Us Bulls fans hope you know that we love you and we’re here for you. “Why?” You might ask….

We have been burned by Jimmy Butler before. 

While it seems like a thousand forevers, the wounds just started to heal. We thought Butler was our guy. A superstar. The ONE. We had so much hope. But hope is the liquor of fools.  

We thought we had a good thing going but then things just were off. You know? It started quiet, little rumblings here and there about how Butler “wasn’t happy with his situation” and “wanted to play for a contender” then all of sudden, on one desperately humid night last June: BOOM! He was gone. Out the door. We were his past. Sure, we got Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen but it hurt. It hurt bad.

But Minnesota, you will get through this. Trust. Us. In a weird way, you will be better off without Butler. Maybe not better as in more wins per se but better as in healthier, happier. Our advice is to practice self-care; drink water, exercise, listen to Prince while power walking the Mall of America or whatever you do in Minnesota. DO NOT fav that inevitable tweet where reports say he screamed at Markelle Fultz for not knowing a Kendrick Lamar song because it won’t feel good. You’re going to want to dissect the last 17 months... wondering if YOU did anything wrong. Don’t. It’s not you. It’s him. In every “Who done it?” in literature, one thing is certain: the Butler ALWAYS does it. 

Look, Butler is like that guy you thought was your boyfriend even though he never put any pictures of you on Instagram and gave you his burner cell phone number. Don’t mourn him because he isn’t mourning us... I mean you. This is about you. 

We are here if you need anything. Think about how good KAT is going to be now. Think about how wonderful DROSE has been playing for you. Do not think about how good you would’ve been if LaVine, Dunn, and Markkanen were still on your team. You WILL get through THIS!

Love Always, 

Bulls Fans

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