That John Wall found his way on the court despite a sore left foot Friday wasn’t much of a surprise as the Wizards’ point guard doesn’t like to miss games.
He set a career-high with 20 assists in what was a closer-than-expected 112-107 win against the Chicago Bulls at Verizon Center to end a two-game losing streak and win the season series 3-1. Wall’s 14 points also game him his 45th double-double which is tops among East guards.
The Wizards (42-26) led by as many as 19 points in the first half but Denzel Valentine cut it to 87-81 in the fourth quarter with 10:06 left.
But there was too much firepower for Washington. Bradley Beal (24 points) knocked down a three-pointer and had three drives for buckets and Wall had a key basket and assist to kept it a two-possession game or better until Nikola Mirotic (15 points) buried a three to get to 104-102 in the waning minutes.
Ian Mahinmi (season-high 16 points) and Bojan Bogdanovic (12 points) led the bench for Washington.
The Bulls (32-37), who didn’t have Dwyane Wade who is out for the season with an elbow injury, were led by Robin Lopez (25 points, 12 rebounds) and Jimmy Butler (28 points).
They had a chance to tie it late but Butler missed a three.
--The Bulls were held to 40 points at the half which was a significant improvement for the defense. It was 13 fewer than the Mavericks scored, 28 fewer than the Sacramento Kings, 24 fewer than vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves and 30 fewer than the Portland Trail Blazers, etc. The Bulls, who are not good from long range, only made 1 of 8 threes and committed 12 turnovers in the first 24 minutes. The Bulls, however, scored 67 points in the first half.
--Smith made his first start with Markieff Morris (flu) out. He was just two points shy of his season-high (17) at halftime. Smith made 3 of 4 threes, a part of his game that hadn’t evolved when the season started. Smith shot 25% from three last season with the Orlando Magic but only attempted 16. He’s now 16 of 30 with Washington, or 53.3%. The most he has attempted in a season was two years ago with the N.Y. Knicks (42).
--Mahinmi had his best game of the season offensively. He was 8-for-11 from the field. He was able to finish shots at the rim off good set ups from Wall who was more focused on creating than scoring. He had consecutive buckets midway through the fourth on feeds from Brandon Jennings (three points, eight assists). The first was on a pick-and-roll and the next was a lob in secondary transition. It gave them breathing room for a 91-83 lead.
--Kelly Oubre (four points) had his best game in a while. He had some hustle plays, including a block of Valentine (11 points) in transition at the rim in the first half, that inspired better defensive play. When Jennings found Mahinmi on the pick-and-roll play mentioned previously, that extra possession was created because Oubre battled for the rebound off a miss by Bogdanovic. Oubre defended Butler on his attempt to tie the score at 110 but forced him to miss the three. Just as important, he didn't bite the pump fake to send him to the foul line. In his previous two games, Oubre played a total of 39 seconds.
--At the end of the third quarter, Wall picked up his 13th technical foul of the season. He’ll be fined $4,000 and is three more from an automatic one-game suspension. It resets when the playoffs begin. Wall’s 20th assist came on a lob to Marcin Gortat (eight points, eight rebounds) late in the fourth.
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