The Washington Wizards lost to the Bulls 130-122 in Chicago on Friday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
The Bulls now have the longest win streak in the Eastern Conference this season so far at nine games and two of those have come against the Wizards in the last seven days. While their first win, in Washington on New Year's Day, required a DeMar DeRozan buzzer-beater, they won much more comfortably in this one.
Chicago followed the lead of Zach LaVine, who had 27 points, and enjoyed a 52-to-29 advantage in bench points. The Wizards had 15 turnovers, which the Bulls cashed in for 20 points on the other end. The Bulls also made 15 threes compared to seven for the Wizards.
Washington fell below .500 for the first time this season at 19-20, now with two straight losses. They are tied with the Knicks for ninth in the East. The Wizards have lost five of their last seven.
The next four games could be important for the Wizards. They play four straight against teams with losing records (at Magic, vs. Thunder, vs. Magic, vs. Blazers) with three of those four at home. They also have a lot of their players back. It's a good opportunity to pack away some wins.
This game was technically a battle between one of the NBA's best 3-point shooting teams (the Bulls) against one of the league's best 3-point defenses (the Wizards). But it was all Chicago on the perimeter, as they had no problem creating open threes and knocking them down. While the Bulls hit a bunch of tough, contested threes against the Wizards last weekend, this time there were a lot of open looks that the coaching staff cannot be happy about.
The Bulls went 15-for-33 (45.5%) from three, which is similar to the 17-for-34 they shot in the last game. They were better in part because they had Lonzo Ball, who didn't play last time. He led the Bulls with six threes, going 6-for-11 from long range for 18 points. He's having a monster year from three (41%, 7.4 3PA). The Bulls also got a big lift off the bench from Coby White, who had 21 points and four threes, plus rookie Ayo Dosunmu, who had 18 points and hit three triples. It was an uncharacteristically bad game for the Wizards' perimeter defense.
Dinwiddie was back
Spencer Dinwiddie returned on Friday after missing four games due to health and safety protocols and was able to hop right into the Wizards' surging offense. There were valid questions about how his return would affect guys like Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma, who had adjusted to new roles in his absence. But the Wizards kept it rolling by scoring 122 points while shooting 51.1% with 28 assists. Kuzma had 21 points, his sixth straight game with 20-plus points.
If only their defense followed suit. Dinwiddie, though, had a solid game, if a streaky one. He didn't even attempt a shot in the first quarter, then erupted for 14 points in the second quarter. There were some signs of rust, like on a few of his lobs to Daniel Gafford which were tipped away by Bulls defenders. Dinwiddie finished with 18 points (4-9 FG) to go along with four assists and two steals. That's not bad at all given he was off for over a week.
Speaking of Gafford, he had the highlight of the game, a vicious putback slam in the first quarter.
The Wizards debuted a new player against the Bulls who is also a familiar face. Center Greg Monroe made his first appearance with the team after coming over on a 10-day hardship exemption contract. Monroe, of course, played his college ball in D.C. at Georgetown before going on to have a long and successful NBA career. He had recently returned from Europe and was playing for the Wizards' G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, before playing for the Timberwolves on a 10-day contract. Now he's back with Washington.
Unlike most hardship exemption players, Monroe may have an opportunity to stick around if he proves valuable for the Wizards because they are in need of some size at center. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. mentioned pregame how the Wizards have had to play small-ball basically all the time this season. Even though Monroe isn't a 7-footer, having a larger big man could come in handy depending on matchups.
With so many players entering health and safety protocols recently, this last section has been dedicated to simply tracking who's in and who's out. The Wizards got Dinwiddie and Holiday back, but they are still waiting on a few others. Anthony Gill remains in protocols and so do Brad Wanamaker and Tremont Waters, who were signed as replacement players because the Wizards initially lost all of their point guards. Now that they have their regular point guards back, those guys may not have spots waiting for them once they are cleared.
Montrezl Harrell was cleared from protocols and is likely to return on Sunday against the Magic. That could also be the season debut for Rui Hachimura, who was cleared but did not travel with the team to Chicago. He could join them on Saturday in Orlando. The other big absence to monitor is Davis Bertans, who missed this game with a sprained left foot. Unseld Jr. said it is not considered serious and that he could play as soon as Sunday.