Wizards can't keep up with hot-shooting Bulls

Caron Butler finished with 27 points, six assists and eight rebounds for Washington, and Antawn Jamison added 23 points and 12 rebounds, but the visiting Wizards fell to the Chicago Bulls, 117-110, last night.

The Wizards dropped to 3-15 for the first time since the 1966-67 season, when they were the Baltimore Bullets.


"It's tough. I've never been in this situation like this before," Butler said. "We're giving a lot of effort and we're giving a lot of energy, but we're still falling short."

Consistent production from Bulls big men has been a problem all season, so Ben Gordon decided to take matters into his own hands - or, more accurately, finger.


With Joakim Noah benched and Tyrus Thomas playing just 5:16, Gordon spectacularly blocked a drive by Antonio Daniels and then mimicked Dikembe Mutombo's finger wag as the Bulls began a fast break the other way.

Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro rode an unconventional lineup to the game-changing run.

Del Negro's use of Gordon, Derrick Rose, Andres Nocioni, Larry Hughes and Luol Deng turned a 69-64 lead into a 92-76 bulge over an eight-minute stretch of the third and fourth quarters.

The lineup also spoke volumes about Thomas and Noah, the latter pulled as a starter in favor of Aaron Gray, who finished with no points and nine rebounds.

"Just wanted to change it up," Del Negro said of benching Noah. "We've been struggling a little bit. Aaron is in the right spots a lot of times. He gives us a little more presence at times offensively. We need to make some adjustments."

Del Negro acknowledged that Noah's adjustments involve more than just improving his conditioning.

"Being in the right spot more defensively and getting a better feel for the offensive execution and timing," Del Negro said.

The Bulls' offense rarely looked better in posting season highs in points, shooting percentage (.524), assists (31), three-pointers (11) and three-point shooting (55 percent).


This being the Bulls, though, they watched a 16-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle to 102-98 before Drew Gooden's three-point play with 2:17 left and Hughes' three-pointer with 1:35 left righted the ship.

Deng's 26 points led the Bulls, who also got 24 from Hughes and 21 from Gordon.

Del Negro's small lineup actually got off to a rocky start. At 6 feet 11 inches, Andray Blatche used his 4-inch height advantage to back Nocioni down into the post and score back-to-back baskets quickly before Del Negro used a timeout.

Then, the lineup responded with Nocioni taking a charge from Blatche and making a three-pointer at the other end. Nocioni also sneaked free for a layup, and, after Gordon's Mutombo impersonation, Deng scored on a baseline finger roll. When Gordon casually swished a three-pointer, the Bulls had a 10-0 run and a 79-68 lead.

Del Negro stressed the importance of ball movement consistently since Wednesday's loss in Milwaukee. And the Bulls responded, assisting on 17 of 22 first-half field goals to lead 57-52.

For the second straight game, Deng established himself early, scoring 11 first-quarter points.


Cavaliers 94, Bobcats 74: : LeBron James scored 25 points and Daniel Gibson added 22 points, sending visiting Cleveland to its eighth straight victory. D.J. Augustin scored 17 points, and Raymond Felton had 15 for Charlotte.

Mavericks 100, Hawks 98: : Jose Barea scored 16 of his season-high 22 points in the decisive third quarter, and Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points to lift host Dallas to its ninth victory in 10 games. Joe Johnson had 32 points, Mike Bibby added 21 and Zaza Pachulia had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta, which watched its three-game winning streak ended.

Nets 95, 76ers 84: : Devin Harris scored 27 points and New Jersey took advantage of host Philadelphia's late shooting woes. Vince Carter added 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Philadelphia missed seven straight shots in a six-minute span of the fourth quarter and lost its fourth straight home game.

Heat 105, Thunder 99: : NBA scoring leader Dwyane Wade scored 25 of his 38 points in the first half and host Miami won its third straight. It's the first three-game winning streak for Miami since April 2007, ending the second-longest drought in the NBA. Russell Westbrook scored 30 points for Oklahoma City (2-19), which matched the fifth-worst 21-game start in league history. Four teams, most recently the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks, opened 1-20.

Hornets 106, Grizzlies 87: : Chris Paul had 21 points and 11 assists for host New Orleans, which has won six of its past seven games and 11 of its past 12 against Memphis. Rookie O.J. Mayo scored 18 points for Memphis, giving him double figures in points in his first 20 NBA games, the longest such streak since Larry Bird hit double figures in his first 20 games with Boston in 1979-80.

Clippers 107, Timberwolves 84: : Baron Davis had 27 points and nine assists, and Zach Randolph scored 21 points to help visiting Los Angeles improve to 4-16. Al Jefferson had 28 points and eight rebounds for Minnesota.


Spurs 123, Warriors 88: : Tim Duncan scored 20 points in 21 minutes for suddenly high-scoring San Antonio in visiting Golden State's ninth straight loss. Michael Finley and Tony Parker added 17 points each.

Suns 106, Jazz 104: : Amare Stoudemire had 22 points and 20 rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 25 points and host Phoenix ended a four-game losing streak. Shaqulle O'Neal, who was in foul trouble throughout the second half, had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles, who hit four of four three-pointers, led Utah with 20 points each.