Crawford puts spell on Wizards

Tribune pro basketball reporter

It was Wizards vs. Bulls on Saturday night, and the only Jordan in attendance was some guy named Eddie. It was two teams with fewer combined wins than Tim Floyd's New Orleans Hornets, both ranking near the bottom of the NBA in virtually every offensive and defensive category.

What this game needed, in addition to better players, was one of those boxing ring announcers. To make it matter. Like "The Battle for the Bottom!" Or "Cellar Showdown!"

In the end, the Wizards got hammered 100-86 as the Bulls notched their ninth victory, assuring they would finish the season with more wins than the Bears—and at least gave the Wizards and Bulls memories of a night with Michael Jordan.

He came in a smaller package, thinner and less imposing. But the results were familiar as the Bulls' Jamal Crawford set a career high with 42 points, 15 in the fourth quarter when the Bulls broke open a close game.

The outburst gave Crawford 72 points in back-to-back games after he had gone 14-for-54 in the three previous games. Crawford shot 16-of-27 Saturday.

"I knew I had to come out of it," said Crawford, who also had six assists and four rebounds as the Bulls improved to 9-20. Corie Blount added 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Larry Hughes led Washington with 22 points. The Wizards slipped behind the Bulls in the standings at 8-20 and have lost eight of nine.

It was fortunate for the Bulls that Crawford apparently thought Hughes was the next LeBron James, because Crawford continued his hot hand with 12 first-quarter points to stake the Bulls to a 29-22 lead. Crawford was the only Bull in double figures in a first half in which the Bulls shot 38 percent.

With Jerry Stackhouse and Gilbert Arenas still out, the Wizards started a lineup that would be a trivia question for the most dedicated NBA fans: Jared Jeffries, Jarvis Hayes, Etan Thomas, Steve Blake and Hughes. That's two rookies and one player, Jeffries, who missed most of his rookie season, and none was a top-10 pick.

The Wizards seemed somewhat uninterested as the other Jordan—Wizards coach Eddie—yanked most of them with his team down 22-12 late in the first quarter.

Of course, he replaced them with a bunch of other guys no one heard of, like Brevin Knight, Mitchell Butler and Brendan Haywood.

This appeared to confuse the Bulls, as the Wizards scored six straight early in the second quarter after the Bulls opened a 31-22 lead and the horse race was on, though it appeared both were heading to the glue factory.

The Bulls shot 6-of-25 in the second quarter and the Wizards, behind Hughes' eight points in the period, closed the half with an 11-4 run to trail 47-45.

Washington then scored the first six points of the third quarter with the help of a trap that disrupted the Bulls.

With the Wizards now up 51-47, one could almost hear the murmuring: "You're losing to those guys?"

The Wizards opened their lead to seven at 58-51 with the Bulls suddenly sluggish and missing shots.

But the Bulls righted themselves after a timeout, with the ball going into Antonio Davis for a pair of baskets.

The Bulls closed the third quarter with a 12-2 burst behind Crawford, who scored eight of the points on a drive, two free throws, a dunk after a turnover and a jumper to give the Bulls a 71-63 lead after three.

Blount continued his good shooting with a pair of jumpers to open the fourth quarter as the Bulls began to pull away.

"I'm surprised how much I've had him on the court," said coach Scott Skiles when asked if he was surprised about Blount. "He can knock down an open shot."

The Wizards then finished their own demise. Attempting to call a timeout after the Bulls had gone on an 18-4 run for a 77-64 lead, Juan Dixon stepped inbounds and was called for traveling. Crawford then hit a jumper for a 79-64 lead.

On this night, Crawford was the wizard.

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