Before embarking on the annual, infamous circus road trip, the Bulls forgot they needed to deal with Gilbert Arenas, one of the NBA's most notable sideshows in recent years.
All told, the Bulls had little trouble beating the Washington Wizards 103-96 at the United Center on Saturday, the final home date before the seven-game road trip begins.
Mike McGraw's game tracker
Bulls 103, Wizards 96
Point to Rose: In the battle of No. 1 draft picks, Bulls guard Derrick Rose had 24 points and 8 assists, while Washington rookie John Wall finished with 16 points and 6 assists. Wall suffered a strained left arch and departed the locker room in a walking boot.
Futile fourth: The Bulls were never seriously threatened late in the game, but coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't happy about the Wizards scoring 38 points in the fourth quarter as Gilbert Arenas drained 4 baskets from 3-point range in the final six minutes.
Less than perfect: The Bulls' defense allowed Washington to shoot 37.3 percent in the first three quarters, then 68.2 percent in the fourth.
After the contest, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was fuming about the fourth quarter, when the Wizards scored 38 points and shot 68 percent from the field. Arenas heated up late and finished with 30 points, his best performance since his suspension last year for bringing unloaded weapons into the Washington locker room.
"We're playing with fire," Thibodeau said. "We gave up 38 in the fourth. We didn't cover the 3-point line. You can't do that. They were maybe one or two possessions from the game being really close down the stretch."
The Bulls (5-3) finished the first half on a 12-5 run, then scored the first 9 points of the third quarter to open a 59-42 advantage. They may have started coasting too early, though.
The Wizards (2-6) closed the gap to 8 before Kyle Korver, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose knocked down 3-pointers on three straight possessions. Joakim Noah added a fastbreak dunk to make it 83-71 with 7:43 left.
But Arenas knocked down 4 baskets from 3-point range in the final six minutes. The Bulls managed to keep at least a 7-point lead until the final 30 seconds.
"I'd say we noticed it at shootaround when we weren't focused," Rose said. "Thibs was getting on us and it carried over into the game. We can basically tell what type of game it's going to be from shootaround."
Rose fared well in his battle with fellow No. 1 draft pick John Wall. Rose finished with 24 points and 8 assists, while Wall had 16 points, 6 assists and 3 steals.
After the game, the Wizards were concerned with Wall's well-being. He departed the locker room in a walking boot after suffering a strained left arch.
Wall left the game briefly with the injury but returned to play the final 4:02. In the third quarter, Wall took a charge from Deng and fell backward into teammate Yi Jianlian. Yi was helped into the locker room with a bone bruise to his right knee and did not return.
Noah added 21 points and 9 rebounds for the Bulls, while Deng had 20 points and 9 rebounds. Washington committed 23 turnovers but outrebounded the Bulls 47-40.
"I thought we were fortunate," Thibodeau said. "I didn't like the way we defended at all in the second half. I thought our rebounding was poor from the start of the game. But obviously pleased with the win."
The road trip opens Tuesday in Houston and will keep the Bulls away from home through Thanksgiving weekend.
"I'm not really concerned about the road trip," Thibodeau said. "I'm concerned more about our practice and then Houston. All this stuff about going on the road, the circus, all that stuff I'm not concerned with it. I'm just worried about the next game."