As much bad luck as the Bulls have had with injuries this season, they found out Tuesday things can actually get worse before getting better.
Taj Gibson left the game at Washington in the second quarter after aggravating a left knee sprain. He’s expected to have an MRI exam on Wednesday and there’s no telling how long he could be out.
Once again, the Bulls played without Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain), Richard Hamilton (sore back) and Derrick Rose (knee surgery). They put up a good fight, but made some costly mistakes and lost to the Wizards 90-86.
Gibson first injured the knee on Feb. 24 and missed three weeks.
“Hopefully it’s not worse than before,” he told reporters after the game. “But it was real painful. It’s similar. But it depends on how it responds tomorrow.”
“Next man up,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have guys that are capable. We just have to do it better.”
The Bulls (40-33) lost another player to a more voluntary mishap. Kirk Hinrich was ejected for arguing the lack of a foul call with 3:18 remaining. They trailed 83-82 at the time and Washington’s John Wall split the 2 technical free throws to make it a 2-point lead.
This happened after a strange sequence. Hinrich was bumped by Nene as he tossed up a bank shot and raised his arms when no foul was called. Meanwhile, Bulls center Nazr Mohammed tipped in the miss, but that was waved off and ruled offensive goaltending.
The goaltend was a close call, but apparently, Hinrich felt the foul by Nene should have been clear. He disagreed and got tossed, which means he wasn’t available down the stretch to guard Wall, who finished with 27 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.
“In that situation, in the late game, you’ve just got to avoid that happening,” Hinrich said. “I’ve got to bite my tongue and let it go.”
That wasn’t the end of the Bulls’ mistakes. In the final three minutes, both Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson went 0-for-2 at the foul line while the Bulls trailed by 2 points.
Mohammed’s putback with 56 seconds remaining tied the score at 86-86. Emeka Okafor shook loose for a dunk, putting the Wizards ahead with 45 seconds left. After Butler missed a jumper, the Bulls had to foul and ended up trailing by 4.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Robinson added 17 points, Luol Deng and Butler scored 13, while Mohammed had 12 points and 12 boards. The Bulls hit just 5 of 23 shots from 3-point range and shot 39.3 percent overall.
“There are going to be nights when you don’t shoot it as well as some other nights, but your discipline defensively — you’re in control of that,” Thibodeau said. “On the raise of the shot, everyone has responsibilities. That part is just discipline and effort. That’s what we have to be able to count on. If we’re missing shots, we still should be in position to win if we do other things.
“Unfortunately, sometimes our energy drops when we miss and that can’t happen. You have to play through; you have to be mentally tough when you face adversity.”
Washington (28-46) won its eighth straight home game and has a realistic goal of being the best of the worst in the East. The Wizards won’t make the playoffs, but are chasing Philadelphia for ninth place. Wall missed 34 games with a knee injury.
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