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Riding the Wizards Bench November

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Bulls Seeing Red After Wizards Cast Defensive Spell

12 November 1997. Washington Wizards 90, Chicago Bulls 83 (record: 3-4)
Game leaders: Howard (18 points), Webber (9 rebounds), Strickland (8 assists)

I'm not going to even try to guess what's up with the Washington Wizards. Maybe it's easy to overreact about their record, considering the number of tough teams they've been playing (only 1 gimme thus far).

Or maybe it's a matter of the Bulls just not being quite right. After watching the first couple of weeks of the season, that's obvious, and it's more than the loss of Scottie Pippen. But I'd say that the Hornets and the Hawks may be better teams than the Bulls, even if Pippen returns.

Call it sacrilege, but it's a hunch I've got. Last night was no fluke. The Wizards held the Bulls to 24 points for the first 23-1/2 minutes of the second half. After Bulls scored 30 points in the first quarter. But the Bulls have been having troubles scoring this season, having yet to break the 100 point plateau (after leading the league in scoring average last year).

Still, the Wizards hung tough and were not scared of the Bulls at all, as noted by Ric Bucher of the Washington Post. Last year's playoff experience no doubt helped that feeling. Tracy Murray kept the Wizards in the game early, with 8 or 10 points (I'm unsure) during the first quarter. Then it became a defensive slugfest.

The Wizards got all 5 starters, plus Murray off the bench, in double figures last night - a must for this team, as I wrote about yesterday. They gave up a few lay-ups with their trapping defense, but it also forced a bunch of bad looks by the Bulls. The Wizards also instituted a high trap whenever Michael Jordan got the ball up high, trying to force someone else on the Bulls to make shots. Jordan wound up making only 10 of 28 shots, but his teammates weren't much better (24 of 57).

What was best is, just like in the Utah game, the Wizards got the lead in the fourth quarter and then held off the Bulls. Even in garbage time, when the Bulls intentionally fouling Wizards players (in particular, Juwan Howard, who was 10 of 10 from the free throw line last night), the Wizards made the necessary shots.

Wow, that was a satisfying win. And don't let the talk of injuries downplay the significance of this win. As CWebb said after last night's win: "If you lose, they just say, 'They're the great Chicago Bulls.' But if you beat them they say, 'They're injured, they've got guys missing.' I'd rather hear the excuses about how you beat them than the other way. We'll take an ugly win any time."

Think about this: the Wizards have beaten both of last year's conference champions on their home courts. This is the Bulls 4th loss of the season, which they didn't get until late December last year and early February the year before. Further, this is the biggest margin of victory (7 points) for a Bulls opponent at the United Center the last two years. Even better, those 4 losses over 2 years (2 each year) TOTALED a 7-point margin of victory. (Some fun, yet meaningless, stats to chew on, courtest of ESPN SportsCenter this morning.)

Now, if the Wizards could only beat the other teams. They get a good test tonight, at the Minnesota Timberwolves.

wtf 13 November 1997

 <== Thin Bench Brews Another Loss For Punchless Wizards Wizards Escape Frozen Tundra With Another Improbable Win  ==>

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