WASHINGTON (AP)—Even before the playoffs start, the Chicago Bulls are focused, motivated by a goal they set before the season: 50 wins.
Well, 49 down, one to go.
Ben Gordon scored 30 points, Chicago held Washington to 34 percent shooting, and the Bulls beat the depleted Wizards 101-68 on Sunday for a third consecutive victory.
“There’s still something about winning 50,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said after his club improved to a season-high 17 games over .500 at 49-32. “Particularly the guys that have been here since I’ve been the coach, I’d like to see them get that. I’d like to see them be able to put that in their pockets, because it’s just something to say: They were on a 50-win team.”
If Chicago defeats New Jersey in its finale Wednesday, it would give the franchise a 50-victory season for the first time since 1997-98, when Michael Jordan and Co. won the NBA championship.
Here’s something else at stake for the Bulls on Wednesday: A victory would seal the No. 2 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“We set that goal in the beginning of the season, to get 50 or 50-plus games,” said Gordon, who banged his left wrist on the rim while missing a dunk in the third quarter but stayed in the game. “We have one more chance to do it, and we can lock up the second seed, so that’s definitely something we’re going to try and accomplish.”
Arenas limped into the locker room for a pregame visit Sunday, his first appearance at Washington’s arena since he had season-ending knee surgery. Arenas left the premises before tipoff, which might have been for the better. He didn’t have to watch Chicago’s typically stifling defense limit Washington to a season-low point total.
“A lot of things did not go our way,” said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, whose team has lost seven of its last eight games. “Hopefully, it lights a fire under us.”
Washington—which hadn’t scored fewer than 73 points in a game this season — put four players in double figures, but the high scorer was DeShawn Stevenson with 13. The Bulls rank second in the NBA in opponents’ shooting percentage, and they repeatedly prevented the Wizards from getting into their offense.
A typical sequence: Washington’s first possession of the second quarter ended with Taylor rushing a 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired, and the ball bounced over the backboard.
“What else can you say? We just played terrible,” Washington’s Jarvis Hayes said.
The Bulls led 49-27 at halftime, holding the Wizards to a season low for a half as Washington shot 11-for-36 (31 percent), including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers. Stevenson, Hayes and Antawn Jamison went a combined 2-for-19.
Chicago was particularly stingy at the beginning of each of the first two quarters.
Washington trailed 12-0 at the start and didn’t make a field goal until Etan Thomas scored inside 4 minutes into the game. Then the Wizards went more than 6 minutes at the outset of the second quarter without a field goal, going 0-for-8 until Roger Mason Jr. hit a jumper that made it 35-19 with 5:40 left in the half.
“We knew they had some guys down,” Gordon said, “so we just wanted to come and take advantage of them early and not make it a close game.”
Arenas, who had surgery April 5, didn’t use crutches as he hobbled around in black slippers. Butler (broken right hand) sits on the sideline during home games; Arenas hasn’t been there since being hurt. “Gil is Gil. He’s very, very different,” Jordan said. “I know who Gil is. We all know who Gil is. So there’s nothing mandatory from me that he has to be here.” … Chicago had lost 13 of its previous 14 games at Washington. … Daniels was hurt Friday at Atlanta. “I tried to run and I couldn’t,” he said Sunday. “If it were a playoff game today, I don’t think I could play.”