Bulls hold off Wizards 87-77

After losing back-to-back games in rare lopsided fashion, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called on his players to ramp up the intensity.

Inserting Richard Hamilton into the starting lineup and returning Luol Deng to the court were supposed to be two ways of doing that.

While Thibodeau may not deem the Bulls cured of the low energy he said had plagued the team previously and would not be thrilled with having to shake off the league's worst team with an 87-77 victory over the Wizards on Saturday night at the United Center, having the two dependable starters back was a boost.

Deng came back from a right ankle injury but sat for much of the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points. Hamilton returned from a left torn plantar fascia in his left foot that caused him to miss 12 games, scoring nine points in 15 minutes.

Despite his returning to the bench with Hamilton's return, it was Marco Belinelli who helped the Bulls with a team-high 17 points in 33 minutes.

Playing against the worst team in the NBA would seem to be a pretty simple way to ignite an energy surge but the Bulls struggled to build a significant lead until the final five minutes when they pulled ahead by holding the Wizards scoreless in the final 4 minutes, 47 seconds.

The Wizards are now just 1-13 away from Washington and were coming off their first victory in nine games before playing the Bulls.

The Bulls, one of the league leaders in scoring defense, held the Wizards, the league's lowest scoring team, to 36.5 percent shooting. The Wizards were without leading scorer Jordan Crawford, who sat out with a left ankle injury after averaging 21.8 points per game in the last six outings.

But the Bulls shot only 39.1 percent from the field.

The Bulls knew what they were missing while Hamilton was out.

"His catch and shoot ability," Thibodeau said. "His ability to make plays, run the floor, get out in transition. Overall, his veteran experience."

Thibodeau said the Bulls would continue to monitor Hamilton's minutes.

"It's not going to change from where we started," he said of Hamilton's playing time. "He's at the stage of his career where I think you have to be careful. So we'll do that."

Thibodeau had bemoaned the Bulls' second quarter struggles.

They had scored just 19 points in the second quarter in their loss to the Rockets on Christmas and only 16 points in the second quarter in their loss to the Hawks a week ago.

It's a trend Thibodeau was eager to see end. After trailing by eight points in the first quarter, the Bulls outscored the Wizards 23-13 in the second quarter for a 45-39 halftime lead.

The other quarters were a bigger problem this time.


Twitter @sryantribune

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