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Bulls build big lead, hold on to beat Wizards

Close to 90 minutes before the Bulls' 98-86 victory over the Wizards Friday night at the United Center, Tyrus Thomas held court in the locker room, teasing Ben Gordon about his height.

"What are you, Ben, about 5-8?" Thomas asked of the guard generously listed at 6 feet 3 inches.

Thomas then went out and proved his mouth isn't the only thing that's big about him. In another active performance, the 6-9 Thomas delivered 16 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Don't look now, but Thomas is averaging 11.7 points, seven rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks in his last nine games. Dare it be said that the third-year forward finally is flashing some consistency as an NBA starter?

"He has been working," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "When he's active, like he was on [ Antawn] Jamison, he's effective. When he runs the court and uses his athleticism, he can flatten defenses for us. That helps our penetration ability with Derrick [Rose]."

Relayed Del Negro's theory that he's figuring things out more consistently, Thomas pondered his response.

"I know what I have to do," he said. "I sometimes tend to get out of that by doing my thing. But I know what helps the team and what I can do."

Thomas' development comes at a time the Bulls are straddling the line between developing young players and trying to creep into the playoff picture. With their second straight victory over a bottom-feeder team, the Bulls remain one game behind the Bucks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Gordon's 22 points led the Bulls, who also got Drew Gooden's second straight double-double since returning from a sprained ankle and 17 points off the bench from Larry Hughes. Gooden finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Nick Young's career-high 28 points off the bench paced Washington.

The Bulls assisted on 29 of 38 field goals and shot 47.4 percent from beyond the arc to make nine three-pointers. Thabo Sefolosha's defense also aided in holding Caron Butler to two points, 18.6 below his average.

The Bulls led by 20 in the first half and 21 in the second in dropping the Wizards to 1-14 on the road against Eastern Conference teams. This being the Bulls, they let matters get interesting.

The Wizards pulled to within 89-82 on Jamison's fast-break layup with just less than three minutes remaining. But Gordon barely beat the shot clock with a driving layup at the 2-minute-24-second mark, pushing the lead back to nine.

After Jamison split a pair of free throws and Butler blocked Gordon's drive at the other end, Thomas spectacularly blocked a Butler drive to jazz the crowd. When Gooden put back a Gordon miss at the other end, the Bulls were back in business with a 10-point lead.

"I just try to play hard and execute," Thomas said. "I always feel comfortable. But I'm learning you have to do what you can do and not worry about the other stuff. I had a tendency to let the other stuff bother me. But if you do all you can do, you really can't do no more."

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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