The story of Tuesday’s game between the Wizards and Bulls can be told by two different halves and through two different players.
In the first half, Nikola Vucevic dropped 20 points on the Wizards as the Bulls inched out to a five-point halftime lead. And in the second half, DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points to push the Bulls out to a lead they wouldn’t give up.
The Wizards lost 107-94 as their defense faded down the stretch at the hands of one of the NBA’s best scorers.
“Consistently having to get the ball out of DeMar’s hands is tough,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “He obviously got going early in the second half. Vuc in the first half, obviously it was DeMar in the second half. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the ball under control with DeMar.”
In the second half, DeRozan went 10-of-15 from the field, and even though the Wizards closed down the paint and held Vucevic to just seven points in the final two quarters, it wasn’t enough to slow the Bulls down.
“We were trying to blitz earlier and it wasn’t working — we had a hard time doing it,” Unseld said. “We got better at blitzing, but they’ve seen it time and time again. Even when you have a great situation, the ball finds an open man late in the clock and he hits an open 3, it’s somewhat deflating. But it served its purpose, the purpose being ‘Get it out of his hands.’”
DeRozan entered the night averaging 27.7 points per game, and he certainly made his presence known in the second half.
But for the first two quarters, the problem was Vucevic’s physicality down low. And once the Wizards plugged one leak, it was impossible to stop the other.
“Vuc is a very skilled big,” Unseld said. ”His ability to score and play-make out of the pocket is unique. We scrambled around, created some misses, but it’s just tough to sustain that.”
The Wizards eventually narrowed the gap to just one point in the fourth quarter, but were outscored 26-14 from that moment on as the Bulls’ two weapons proved just too much to handle for a full 48 minutes.
“They got rolling, but it’s just knowing the personnel and don’t let them get going from the beginning of the game and don’t let them start like that,” Deni Avdija said. “Then it’s really hard. NBA players, especially good ones, really hard to stop them after they heat up. They were heating up in the beginning of the game and it’s hard to stop them when the time comes.”