The Washington Wizards sandwiched wins over two of the best teams in the NBA around a loss at one of the worst, and consistently finding their highest gear remains the team’s goal. The Wizards will try to maintain their focus when they host a team fighting to move up the standings in the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
Washington knocked off the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, only to fall back with a loss at the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday before finding their footing again and sprinting past the Houston Rockets 121-103 on Friday. “We can’t come out and have great games against Boston and Houston, two of the top teams in the conferences, and then lay eggs against the teams who we should quote-unquote beat,” Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal told reporters. “It’s up to us players. We’ve got to stay locked in, stay locked in to what has gotten us this far with how we’ve had success and just keep rolling with it.” The Bulls are one of those teams that Washington should beat on paper, but this Chicago team is much different than the one that owned the worst record in the NBA three weeks ago. The Bulls are winners of 10 of their last 12 games, with the only two setbacks in that span coming at Eastern Conference powers Cleveland and Boston.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN Chicago, NBCSN Washington
ABOUT THE BULLS (13-22): Chicago’s surge coincides directly with the return of power forward Nikola Mirotic, who scored 28 points in as many minutes off the bench and buried eight 3-pointers in Friday’s 119-107 win over the Indiana Pacers. “Right now, I feel stronger in my legs and I feel more confidence when I am shooting that ball and going to the basket,” Mirotic told reporters. “When you have the confidence, there is no hesitation. This was something I wanted (first coming to the NBA), to have the impact in the beginning. It was not that way. But it is never late. The most important is this moment and the future, and I‘m sure my best game is about to come.” Mirotic is averaging 18.1 points on 50.3 percent shooting in 12 games while knocking down 48 percent from 3-point range.
ABOUT THE WIZARDS (20-16): Washington shot 43.2 percent from the floor in the loss at Atlanta but boosted that number to 53.4 percent while knocking down 18 3-pointers against the Rockets. “We moved the ball,” Wizards point guard John Wall told reporters. “A lot of guys in double figures. We didn’t care who was getting shots, just played team basketball and team defense. It’s simple. When we play the good teams, we do that. We come out and play well. We play with a lot of energy. We have to find a way to keep this going when we play a team that’s subpar, (under) .500 and play the same exact way and don’t worry about other stuff we worry about.” Wall scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting on Friday after slumping to 10 points on 3-of-9 at Atlanta.
1. Wizards SF Kelly Oubre Jr. is averaging 16 points on 53.1 percent shooting over the last four games.
2. Chicago PG Kris Dunn (left knee) was scratched from the lineup on Friday and is day-to-day.
3. Washington took the last three of the four meetings between the teams last season.
PREDICTION: Wizards 113, Bulls 111