Bulls show life without Wade, but fall short against Wizards

The Bulls showed some life in the second half of Friday's game at Washington. But this late in the season, what they need is wins.

Playing for the first time since losing Dwyane Wade to an elbow injury, the Bulls came back from a 19-point halftime deficit against the Wizards. They got as close as 1, but Jimmy Butler's potential tying 3-pointer missed the mark in the waning seconds and the Bulls lost 112-107 at the United Center.

Butler looked more like his old self, scoring 28 points on 10 of 17 shooting. Center Robin Lopez was hot, scoring a season-high 25 points, hitting 12 of 16 shots from the field and added 12 rebounds.

“Second half, if we play like that, we're going to be in it every night,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the contest. “Now it's up to making the plays when necessary to win the game. I thought guys stepped up collectively and did a solid job (in Wade's absence).”

The problem is, the Bulls (32-37) lost more ground in the playoff race. With just 13 remaining, they were two games out of eighth place, pending Milwaukee's late game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bulls have ruled Wade out for the rest of the regular season. Hoiberg went with Paul Zipser to start in Wade's place. The rookie from Germany was OK, finishing with 8 points and 7 rebounds. The Bulls did get some helpful contributions off the bench from Nikola Mirotic (15 points) and Denzel Valentine (11).

But the first half resembled a 1 vs. 16 game and it appeared the Bulls would surrender without putting up any fight. Washington star John Wall was questionable with a foot injury coming in, but he played and piled up 20 assists.

“I really challenged them at halftime,” Hoiberg said. “It was one of those situations where we weren't getting back in transition, we were turning the ball over and we weren't rebounding — the three things we had to do to stay in this game we were not doing. We went out there in the second half and turned things around and really battled and fought.

“I just told them, ‘If we go out with that type of mentality, if we go out with that type of fight, we're going to stay in this thing.' If we're going to play like we did in the first half, we've got no chance.”

The Bulls trailed 59-40 at halftime and were down by 12 heading into the fourth. There was no reason to think the Bulls would make it a game, but they kept chipping away and inching closer.

Early in the final quarter, the Bulls made up some ground with an unusual lineup of Mirotic, Valentine, Zipser, Michael Carter-Williams and Joffrey Lauvergne. Lauvergne's hook shot brought the Bulls within 91-87 with 6:16 left.

Washington stretched the lead to 7 a few times, but a Mirotic 3-pointer made the score 104-102 with 1:23 remaining, then a step-back 3 from Butler closed the margin to 108-107 with 39.6 seconds on the clock.

The Bulls needed a defensive stop and nearly got one. Bradley Beal (24 points) missed a running jumper, the Bulls grabbed the rebound and Valentine had Otto Porter Jr. boxed out, but when Porter jumped and flipped over Valentine's back, a foul was called on the Bulls and Porter hit both free throws with 18.4 seconds on the clock.

“I thought Denzel really did a good job fighting for position, to go in there and battle and get that rebound,” Hoiberg said. “It's unfortunate it was called. I'll leave it at that.”

Butler looked for a 3-point opening, ran some clock, drove away from Lopez and launched an unguarded 3-point shot that missed. Butler was moving toward the basket and he's usually more accurate when pulling up or stepping back.

The Bulls are back in action Saturday at the United Center against Utah.

• Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.

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Bulls game day

Scouting report

Bulls vs. Utah Jazz at the United Center, 8 p.m.

TV: WGN • Radio: WLS 890-AM

Outlook: Utah (43-26) is currently fourth in the Western Conference standings. The Jazz lost in Cleveland on Thursday, but has won six of its last eight games. All-star SF Gordon Hayward leads Utah with 21.9 ppg, followed by PG George Hill at 17.2. C Rudy Gobert (12.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks) is a candidate for defensive player of the year. SG Rodney Hood (13.1 ppg) missed the Cleveland game with a sore right knee. PF Derrick Favors has missed the last five games with a bone bruise in his left knee. Utah leads the league in points allowed at 96.3 and ranks second in field-goal percentage defense. The Bulls won in Salt Lake City 85-77 on Nov. 17 and the Jazz has lost five of its last six trips to the UC.

Next: Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, 7 p.m.

<span title="charref:8"></span>— Mike McGraw

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