The Bulls seemed to have plenty of life when they took the court in Washington on Saturday night.
But it was possible to pinpoint the moment they pulled the plug.
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Leading 50-45 with 5:35 left in the second quarter, the Bulls went scoreless for the next five minutes and eventually ended up on the wrong end of a 34-11 run. The Bulls couldn't muster much of a comeback late in the contest and lost to the resurgent Wizards 86-73 at the Verizon Center.
After going 4-28 to start the season, Washington got point guard John Wall back from a knee injury and has now won seven of its last 10 games. The Wizards are back to playing like the hustling squad that won at the United Center last April.
Both teams played Friday, but only the Bulls (26-17) had to travel and they couldn't keep up for the full 48 minutes. After dominating Golden State at home, the Bulls were outscored in Washington 23-11 in the third quarter.
Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 19 points. Joakim Noah nearly pulled off a triple-double, finishing with 17 rebounds, 10 assists and 9 points.
"I think we got beat by a team that just played harder than us tonight," Noah told reporters after the game. "We played tired basketball tonight."
Washington (11-31) dominated the points in the paint 48-26, as Emeka Okafor (15 points, 16 rebounds) and Nene (16 points) took turns scoring with ease. Wall had 15 points and 7 assists.
"We have back all the players. There is our team," Nene said. "We're going to shut people's mouths."
Robinson and Taj Gibson sparked the Bulls in the second quarter, but after posting the 40-35 advantage, the visitors missed their next 8 shots -- all jumpers -- and trailed 50-44 by halftime.
In the meantime, the Wizards hit 7 of 8 shots from the final minute of the second quarter through the first three minutes of the third and took a 60-46 lead.
"I thought we played low energy tonight," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You've got to get ready for everybody. ... When you start taking shortcuts, the results aren't going to be good."
The frustration took a turn for the worse. In a span of 39 seconds, Carlos Boozer was called for a flagrant foul for knocking down Okafor while fighting for post position, then a technical foul for pushing on Okafor's head after being called for a defensive foul. Boozer finished with 6 points and 2 rebounds.
Washington eventually built a 75-55 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Bulls cut it to 10 when Robinson hit a 3-pointer with 7:11 remaining, but the comeback fizzled when they missed the next 3 attempts from 3-point range.
"We didn't make our shots," Robinson said. "Tonight they wanted it. They wanted it more than us. We dug a hole and we tried to dig ourselves out but it was too late."