Bulls beat Wizards to win ninth game in last 10

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The Chicago Bulls continued  their rapid ascent through the Eastern Conference by defeating  the injury-depleted Washington Wizards 87-80 Wednesday for  their ninth victory in their last 10 games.

Forward Carlos Boozer scored 30 points and had 10 rebounds  and seven assists, while third-year point guard Derrick Rose  slashed through the Wizards defense to score 25 points.

Boozer, a two-time All-Star, is averaging 18 points this  season but has played in only 12 games after suffering a broken  hand in an accident at his home on Oct. 2.

“I feel like I’m getting better and better every day,” said  the 29-year-old Boozer, a nine-year NBA veteran in his first  season with Chicago. “I’m still not where I want to be but I  don’t think I’m too far away.”

The Wizards led by as many as eight in the third quarter  but Chicago battled back behind Rose, who had 13 points in the  frame, and led 73-70 with a period to play.

Chicago, which shot a horrid two of 16 from three-point  range, opened the fourth quarter with an 8-3 run to take an  81-73 lead and the Wizards lacked the firepower to respond.

“As the game went along, our defense tightened up,” said  Boozer. “We gave up 33 in the first quarter, in the fourth  quarter we gave up 10.

“As the game progressed our defense became more and more  like the Chicago Bulls’ defense. It was a grind-out win. We’ll  take it and keep moving.”

With most of the attention focused on Boston and Miami, the  Bulls (18-9) have risen to the third-best record in the East  and are just 1.5 games behind the second-placed Heat.

“This group of guys has worked extremely hard since the  start of training camp,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “We’re  not where we want to be, we’re still striving to improve in a  lot of different areas.

“But they’re great workers and have great team spirit.  They’re trying to improve defensively. If you defend and  rebound, particularly on the road, you’ll be in position to  win. And that’s where we are.”

WIZARD WOES

Washington, playing without injured point guard John Wall  and reserve forward Yi Jianlian, failed in its bid to win  consecutive games for the first time this season.

The backcourt shouldered most of the load for the Wizards,  with Nick Young scoring 22 points and Kirk Hinrich adding 19  points while delivering nine assists.

Washington (7-20) failed to take advantage of the absence  of Bulls center Joakim Noah, their leading rebounder, who is  out of the line-up with a torn ligament in his right thumb.

The Wizards’ starting big men, JaVale McGee, Al Thornton  and Andray Blatche shot a combined seven for 27, with McGee  failing to score and Blatche, who blew a wide-open lay-up,  totalling seven points on three of 14 shooting.

“I hope as a professional you don’t miss a lay-up two  minutes into the game and you’re done for the next 46,” a  frustrated Wizards coach Flip Saunders said of Blatche.

“He struggled tonight, there’s no question. He’s one of our  main guys. He’s a young player. Part of development sometimes  is getting your butt kicked.”
“You can learn as much when you play bad sometimes as when  you play good.”

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