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Lowly Wizards beat Bulls at their own game

Scott Twardoski Nene EmekOkafor Joakim Noah Carlos Boozer

Scott Twardoski, Nene, Emeka Okafor, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer

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Updated: February 28, 2013 7:14AM



WASHINGTON — The Bulls aren’t accustomed to this situation.

“They hit us first,’’ swingman Jimmy Butler said after the 86-73 loss Saturday against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center.

That alone was unusual for a team that prides itself on being more physical than the opposition. And the Wizards hit first, second and, most important, last.

“I wouldn’t say we were surprised with their physical play, but they kept hitting us,’’ Butler said. “I’m not going to say we backed down from it, but we didn’t come out the way we’re supposed to in the first, second, third or fourth.’’

That wasn’t just the opinion of a second-year player, either. It was a running theme in the locker room after the game.

“I think we got beat by a team that played harder than us,’’ All-Star Joakim Noah said. “You got to give credit where credit is due. I feel like we fought hard at the end, but we played tired basketball.’’

Especially up front, where the Bulls usually grind teams down. Noah had nine points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, but Carlos Boozer was a no-show with only six points and two rebounds. And he had a flagrant foul in the third quarter.

Maybe that’s why Boozer refused to talk to the media.

Meanwhile, Wizards big men Nene and Emeka Okafor allowed their play to do their talking, combining for 31 points and 22 rebounds.

“I told our front line, I thought we were as physical as we’ve really been, delivering blows and rebounding the ball,’’ Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “Every time you play Chicago, you know it’s going to be a bloodbath.’’

And the game was on that path until the officials stepped in.

Boozer appeared to swing his arm and hit Okafor in the face on back-to-back plays in the third and was hit with a flagrant foul and a technical foul within 40 seconds of each other.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau saw it as just another night in the paint for his team rather than anything malicious.

“Who knows?’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘The guy posts up. It’s a flagrant foul, I guess. There’s a lot of banging, you know. Their guys are physical. Carlos is a big guy inside. I don’t know. I’ll have to see the replay of it. It didn’t look like anything more than two guys getting tangled up. I thought the same thing was happening down on our end.

“The officiating wasn’t the problem. We were the problem.’’

The loss dropped the Bulls to 26-17 and was only their second road loss of the season against Eastern Conference opponents.

“For us to come out and hold them to 29 in the second half, that’s what won the game,’’ Wittman said.

The Wizards, who started the season with 12 consecutive losses, won their fifth home game in a row.

‘’We knew they were playing well,’’ Thibodeau said.

“You can’t allow frustration. You have to get the job done, whatever it is.’’



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