Part of the reason the Wizards had been so successful against the Chicago Bulls, especially when they beat them in five games of a first-round playoff series two years ago, is they matched their edginess on the court.
They'll need to rediscover that for tonight's game in their first meeting of the regular season at United Center (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 7:30 p.m. ET).
That attitude has largely been absent for the Wizards (16-19) this season, but Garrett Temple took coach Randy Wittman's words to heart recently when he called out his team for allowing the Toronto Raptors to get away with hard fouls on Otto Porter. Saturday, when Nic Vucevic struck Marcin Gortat across the face to draw a Flagrant 1 foul, it was Temple who stood up.
"We've gone through situations the night before there was a flagrant foul. We barely went and helped our own guy out against Toronto," Wittman said of Porter, who was flattened by Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola. "We talked about it. This is a battle. Somebody takes a cheap shot on you you got to stand up for him. We're not going to fight. We're going to stand up for each other."
Temple didn't blink in going chest-to-chest with Vucevic, who stands six inches taller and 65 pounds heavier.
"When Patterson fouled Otto, somebody should've been there and said something to him," point guard John Wall said. "When Luis Scola hit Otto cutting down the middle, somebody should've said something to him. It's not trying to be a dirty team or starting an altercation. It's stepping up for your teammate."
Nene, who missed the last game because of a sore right triceps, grabbed Bulls guard Jimmy Butler by the throat in a preseason game last year and was suspended for the season-opener. Nene let his anger towards Joakim Noah get the best of him in a regular season game, too, when he fouled out without a point.
In their playoff matchup, Wall and Bradley Beal (out) had their run-ins with Bulls players. They haven't forgotten being embarrassed by the Wizards as they lost every home game in that playoff series.
The Bulls (22-13) are playing well but are hardly infallible. if the Wizards show the lapses in play that they had in the 97-88 loss to Toronto, they could get run out of the building. If they show the defiance of Temple in that 105-99 win in Orlando, they can win just as easily.
"We didn't play stellar. We had some bad stretches, turned the ball over but our intensity never wavered," Wittman said after Saturday's game. "It never affected us one bit defensively. That's how you get through bad stretches."