Chicago Bulls

Up-and-down Bulls down again in 107-97 loss to Wizards

The Bulls lost for the first time this season when Rajon Rondo reached double-digit assists.

Otherwise, all the sad, familiar narratives stayed the same. You know the ones: The Bulls are up and down and play to the level of their competition. The Bulls can’t close games. The Bulls are 3-point challenged.

Tied after three quarters, the Bulls meekly surrendered to the sub-.500 Wizards 107-97 on Wednesday night at the United Center. The Wizards entered just 2-9 on the road.

Not only did the Bulls fail to build on any momentum generated by Monday’s impressive blowout victory over the Pistons, but their league-worst fourth-quarter offense continued to sputter. Make that crash and burn.

The Bulls scored just 20 points on 7-for-27 shooting in the final 12 minutes after beginning the week last in fourth-quarter scoring (22.9 points per game) and shooting (37.5 percent).

“We’ve just have to keep working on it,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We missed a couple layups, a couple wide-open 3-pointers. And then we stopped getting back (defensively). When we take the ball out of the net, that hurts our pace. We have to force them into missed shots.”

Asked if he needs to adjust the fourth-quarter rotation, Hoiberg said he almost took out Rondo in favor of Doug McDermott.

“I thought about it,” Hoiberg said.

John Wall’s 23 points, nine assists and six rebounds led the Wizards, who scored 32 fast-break points, a season high for a Bulls opponent.

“The more we missed, the more we tried to go get it,” Hoiberg said. “Guys were supposed to get back.”

Wall and Bradley Beal, who scored 21, missed the teams’ first meeting, in which the Bulls prevailed.

“Those two guys are as good as any backcourt in the league,” Hoiberg said. “Wall’s as fast as any player in this league from end line to end line. Beal is really feeding off his speed and pulling behind as a trail man on the break. He’s playing very confident.”

In the first quarter, the Bulls appeared to pick up the thread started on Monday. They shot 62.5 percent in dropping 33 points on the Wizards and building an early 13-point lead.

Taj Gibson, who sank all eight of his shots Monday, made his first five attempts before missing. He fell one short of becoming the first Bull since Elton Brand in 2000 to sink 14 straight shots.

Other than Gibson, the Bulls starters generated little shooting consistency. Jimmy Butler scored a team-high 20 points but missed 14 of 20 shots. Dwyane Wade and Rondo combined to shoot 8-for-30, and Rondo added four turnovers.

Despite starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. sitting out the second half with back spasms, the Wizards shot 52.4 percent. That included 19 points off 15 Bulls turnovers.

The Bulls actually outscored a second straight opponent from beyond the arc, getting five 3-pointers from Nikola Mirotic and McDermott. Both scored in double figures again. But the Bulls shot just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc, including 1-for-7 by the starters.

“I thought we came out of the gate with the right mentality. The ball was moving,” Hoiberg said. “Then we allowed them to get the momentum. We lost our pace.”

Twitter @kcjhoop

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