Bulls start fast, but can't finish off a victory in Washington
The Bulls were on the verge of another big victory Sunday afternoon.
But sort of like the ball dropped on 2017, the Bulls got a tough reminder they still have room to improve.
Kris Dunn hit a step-back jumper to put the Bulls ahead 110-107 with 54 seconds left, before the Washington Wizards finished with a 7-0 run and pulled out a 114-110 victory at Capital One Arena.
The Bulls' biggest problem was containing Wizards guards Bradley Beal and John Wall. Beal finished with 39 points, Wall scored 21, each had 9 assists and both players got to the rim much too easily in the final minute.
"I thought for the most part, up until maybe that last minute, we did a good job of keeping our composure," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the game. "They blew the roof off the place a couple times with shots, with getting off in transition and we answered it. Again, that's growth for our young team from where we were earlier in the season."
The Bulls (13-23) led most of the way and by as many as 12 points. They got off to a fast start by scoring 38 points in the fist quarter. The loss dropped the Bulls' record to 10-3 in their last 13 games.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Bulls, led by Nikola Mirotic with 21 points. Dunn finished with 19 points and 11 assists, while Robin Lopez added 16 points.
After taking the 110-107 lead, the Bulls had a couple defensive breakdowns. First Beal, then Wall, drove past Justin Holiday with ease, no one got over to help and the two layins gave Washington the lead. Wall was fouled on his drive and tacked on a free throw to make it 112-110 with 29.4 seconds left.
Dunn got a good look at a 12-foot step back with a chance to tie, but it bounced off the front rim. The Bulls fouled Beal and he missed both free throws, but the rebound was tapped around about three times. Dunn appeared to grab it, Denzel Valentine had it for a second, but the ball was eventually knocked into the Wizards' possession. Forced to foul again, Wall knocked down 2 free throws with 9.1 seconds left to put the game away.
"It was loose balls. It was rebounds," Hoiberg said. "That one at the end with 19 seconds left, we had a play drawn up. We weren't going to use the last time out that we had to go down and either get a quick two or a 3. We had a play drawn up that could get either of those."
That's why the Bulls had their offensive lineup on the floor trying to chase down Beal's missed free throw. The Bulls managed to stay close despite getting doubled up from the 3-point line. The Bulls hit just 8 of 35 shots from long range, while the Wizards made 16 of 36.
Dunn returned after missing Friday's win over Indiana with patellar tendinitis in his left knee. The Bulls play again Monday night at home against Portland.
"I give our guys a lot of credit for coming out with great intensity early," Hoiberg said. "Our pace was unbelievable in that first half. We continue to get better in that area. If we continue to play with this type of effort like we have been really the last month, we'll be fine."
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center, 7 p.m. Monday
Radio: WLS 890-AM
Outlook: Damian Lillard (22.7 ppg) has missed the last four games with a hamstring issue. It's possible he could return to face the Bulls, but there was no official word by Sunday afternoon. SG C.J. McCollum is Portland's second-leading scorer at 21.0 ppg, followed by C Jusuf Nurkic with 14.5. PG Shabazz Napier has scored at least 20 points in the last three games while filling in for Lillard. The Blazers (18-17) are just 5-9 over their last 14 games, but have done better on the road than at home this season. Portland has won five of its last six games in Chicago.
Next: Toronto Raptors at the United Center on Wednesday, 7 p.m.
-- Mike McGraw