Game Notes: Wizards at Bulls
Tardy notes on Agent Zero, John Wall and Derrick Rose.
by Quinn Peterson
Despite the each team’s struggles, especially Washington, I had high expectations entering Saturday’s Bulls-Wizards game. The John Wall vs. Derrick Rose saga officially began. Their first matchup during the preseason had heads on swivels, with fans trying to keep up with the action. Unfortunately, this regular season game was not so eventful, though the Bulls did pull the win out 103-96.
From the outset, things were sloppy, choppy and out of sync. The Bulls couldn’t shoot the ball, while the Wizards couldn’t stop fouling. Chicago jumped out to an early lead behind Rose, Joakim Noah and Keith Bogans who scored 17 of their first 18. Despite his early contributions, Rose opened the game shooting just 1-8. The Bulls team as a whole, struggled, going 7-21, but nine trips to the free throw line — knocking down eight — helped them stay in the game. The Wizards got a more balanced offensive effort and led things 25-24 after the first period.
One of the highlights of the game came about half-way through the first, when former Bull Kirk Hinrich was honored with a “Welcome Back to Chicago” tribute video on the jumbotron.
“It was really nice,” said Hinrich. “I’m not really one for that, but it means something that they appreciate the type of player I was.”
A humble one, Hinrich didn’t even look up at the screen as it was playing during the game.
“I didn’t look at it but I have a copy in my bag,” he said. “It was weird. I’m not really comfortable with it but it was nice… I was just trying to concentrate when coming in here and playing, just trying to stay focused on the whole game.”
Luol Deng tried to jumpstart the Bulls in the second quarter with six early points. Going with predominantly bench players, both teams struggled to find rhythm in what had been a plodding game up to that point. The Bulls were able to find their stroke, however (52 percent for the quarter), while it was the Wizards’ turn to struggle (33 percent in the quarter.)
The game finally caught life when Rose and Wall returned to push the tempo, and even more so when Javelle McGee caught an alley-oop from John Wall, victimizing Kyle Korver.
The highlight of the night, no doubt, it also sparked a 12-5 Bulls run to end the quarter, giving them a 50-42 lead at the half.
The Wizards continued having fits from the field in the third, going scoreless for the first four and a half minutes, but Rose finally got his game going in the third with his first signature, acrobatic take to the basket. He was much more active and assertive, which helped everyone. His penetration, scoring or dishing, spurred the Bulls as they started to pull away. Also assisting was the defense, which forced nine turnovers and held Washington to just 16 points in the period.
Again, however, when both PGs left, the game dried. For Rose, it was a routine substitution; for Wall, it was a sprained left foot, though he would return late in the game’s final minutes.
Things looked to be in the bag for the Bulls, but a letdown let Washington back in the game behind inspired play from Gilbert Arenas, who returned to his Hibachi ways of a few years ago.
“Today was, you know, my second good game,” said Arenas, who had his best game of the season by far. “They’ve both been away games. For some reason I’m comfortable playing on the road right now.”
“It’s just gonna take a little bit more time than I though. I was here [Chicago] the whole summer and I shot a lot. So I know the shot is there, it’s just getting it up to game speed.”
Going 5-6 from the floor (including 4-4 from deep), his 15-point quarter, plus seven apiece from Hinrich and Nick Young. The Wizards shot 15 for 22, and knocked down eight three’s — several of which were in Rose’s face — much to the avail of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who threw his hands up in disgust multiple times.
“We gave up 38 points in the fourth quarter,” said Thibodeau. We did not cover the three-point line. You can’t do that. They were one or two possessions away from the game being really close down the stretch. Give them credit, they fought hard the whole game.
“Arenas got hot and I thought we got fortunate because I did not like the way we defended the ball at all in the second half,” he continued.
Wall returned with four minutes to go, but was virtually a non-factor. He said that he didn’t want to leave the game, but “the more I put pressure on it [his left foot], the worse it got.” He emerged after the game with a walking boot on.
Chicago was able to withstand the late Wizard’s push, and despite things getting close in the last few minutes, it never truly felt like Washington would be able to get over th hump.
Rose led the Bulls with a quiet 24 points and eight assists, while Arenas led the Wizards with 30, including seven of ten from three. Wall finished with 16 points and six assists.
The game was truly won on the front-line, however. The Bulls’ Deng, Noah and Taj Gibson combined for 50 points (16-for-32) and 25 boards; Washignton’s McGee, Al Thornton and Andray Blatche combined for 14 points (7-for-25) and 16 boards.
The Bulls now begin their annual circus trip with a game in Houston on Tuesday.
On John Wall vs. Derrick Rose:
The two only went “one-on-one” on a handful of occasions, with Rose usually winning the battle. While many comparisons have been made, the biggest difference in their games right now is their ability to use the ballscreen, something Wall admitted, tipping his hat to Rose in that regard. Rose, who has certainly improved at this since entering the league, was sharp, hitting the screen at full speed looking to turn the corner. Wall, on the other hand, was a bit more passive, hesitating, which hinder his success at using the screen most effectively.
The two tried to downplay their matchup after the game. “It’s all about winning…people are trying to make it a big matchup. My thing is just winning basketball games and giving spurts when the team needs something,” said Rose.
In the popular question of “who’s faster?”, Wall did receive two votes: One from Rose himself, who credited Wall’s youth. The other from his teammate Arenas.
“I’m a fan of basketball so I catch myself watching both of them,” said Gilbert. “John Wall’s faster. But you know, at that speed they’re going, it really doesn’t matter.”