The Chicago Bulls are making the most of a favorable stretch of games following the All-Star break. A visit to Washington could help extend their recent run of success.
The Bulls look to match a season high with their fifth straight victory while trying for a third consecutive win over the new-look Wizards on Monday night.
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Despite trading veteran John Salmons and former first-round pick Tyrus Thomas to free up salary cap space in the hopes of pursuing some of the game’s top free agents next season, Chicago (29-26) appears focused on succeeding in the present.
Rookie Taj Gibson tied a career high with 20 points and had 13 rebounds, while Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich each scored 17 as the Bulls won 122-90 at home over Philadelphia on Saturday to remain undefeated since the All-Star break.
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Hakim Warrick, acquired from Milwaukee in the Salmons’ trade, added 15 with nine boards for Chicago, which has won six of seven and is sixth in the Eastern Conference.
“We are confident and playing really good basketball,” Rose told the Bulls’ official Web site. “I’m really excited about the guys we have here right now.”
The Bulls’ schedule out of the break has helped contribute to their success. In the midst of playing seven of eight against teams with losing records, the Bulls are averaging 113.8 points and shooting 49.3 percent in two victories over New York, and wins against Minnesota and Philadelphia in their last four games.
Chicago held the 76ers to 38.4 percent shooting, while totaling a season high for points and committing a season-low four turnovers.
“If we play like that, we are a tough team to beat,” said Hinrich, who made three 3-pointers Saturday to give him a team-record 773 for his career.
Chicago figures to be a formidable opponent for Washington (19-34), which is without suspended star Gilbert Arenas and recently traded top players Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.
Though the Wizards have won two in a row at home since the break, the Bulls have won three of their last four trips to Washington. Chicago also won 121-119 in double overtime at home in the teams’ last meeting Jan. 15.
Rose scored a career-high 37 points and had nine rebounds with six assists in that contest. Coming off his first All-Star game appearance and still nursing a sore hip, Rose is averaging 23.0 points on 55.7 percent shooting during the team’s four-game winning streak.
The Bulls last won five in a row Jan. 22-29.
Washington fell short in a bid for its first three-game winning streak of the season, losing 109-104 at Toronto on Saturday. Though the Wizards can no longer rely on the star trio of Arenas, Jamison and Butler, they appear to feel more comfortable on the floor as a group.
“We’re getting better,” said fifth-year forward Andray Blatche, who’s averaging 9.8 points on the season but 25.0 in his last three games since becoming a starter. “I like our attitude, I like our hustle. We’re going to be a great team.”
Blatche scored 24 points and former All-Star Josh Howard had 17 with seven rebounds Saturday in his third game since Dallas traded him for Butler and Brendan Haywood. Howard, who scored 20 points in the Wizards’ 107-97 win over Denver on Friday, is averaging 19.3 points and 7.2 boards in his last four games against the Bulls.
Randy Foye, who had 14 points Saturday for the Wizards, had 22 and seven assists at Chicago last month.
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