CHICAGO (AP)—The boos started as soon as Larry Hughes entered the game and continued right up to the final buzzer, even though his performance would have won over most crowds.
Then again, he wants the Chicago Bulls to trade him. If he keeps playing this well, someone else might want him.
Hughes scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, Ben Gordon had 22 and the Bulls hung on for a 98-86 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday after watching a 21-point lead dwindle to seven in the fourth quarter.
Hughes shrugged off the boos, just as he shrugged off the Wizards.
“They’re the same people that cheer when I make a shot,” Hughes said. “It’s fine. Obviously, I think the fans read the papers and they want to support their team. Whatever’s been going on, they read. They feed into it.
“But as long as I have a Bulls uniform on, I’m out to go out there and play hard and try to get a ‘W.”’
The Bulls did just that, picking on the Eastern Conference’s worst team for most of the night. Then, they hung on after a defensive lapse allowed the Wizards to get back into the game.
Chicago led 78-57 early in the fourth before Washington made its move. The Wizards were within 89-82 after Antawn Jamison’s layup with just under three minutes left, but Gordon answered with one of his own and the Bulls hung on.
“The refrain is getting tiresome about falling behind and making a noble comeback and falling just short,” Washington coach Ed Tapscott said.
Chicago is in a soft spot in its schedule, although it was tough to tell given how it had played recently.
The Bulls fell by 10 to lowly Minnesota last week—their sixth loss in seven games—and followed that with a less-than-inspired 99-94 win over lowly Sacramento on Tuesday. This, however, was more like it.
Although he committed four turnovers, Gordon simply buried the Wizards when he didn’t give the ball away. He was 4-of-7 on 3-pointers and reached the 20-point mark for the fourth straight game.
Hughes got booed when he entered the game late in the first quarter and seemed to hear it after every miss in the second and third, but his late flurry helped hold off the Wizards. He even heard a few cheers in the latter stages, but not many.
No surprise there.
He has said he wants to get traded if he can’t get more minutes, and the odds of a bigger role with the Bulls appear slim given their crowd in the backcourt.
“I’ve been around long enough to know I have to be there for my teammates, support the system, to go out and get a ‘W,”’ said Hughes, who is still owed about $26 million on a contract that expires after the 2009-10 season.
The Wizards lost despite getting a career-high 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting from Nick Young, who had 18 in the fourth quarter.
“Once I got it going, my teammates started having confidence in me, passing me the ball, running plays for me,” he said. “It gave me more of a boost.”
But the Wizards’ big two scorers were big duds on Friday. Jamison scored just 12 after pouring in a season-high 32 points in Wednesday’s six-point loss to Toronto, and Caron Butler finished with two while shooting 1-for-8.
The late push aside, it was another rough night for the Wizards. Tapscott wasn’t around to see the comeback after getting ejected apparently for arguing a call a carrying call against Young early in the fourth quarter.
Until then, it was another ugly effort.
The Wizards couldn’t beat short-handed Toronto on Wednesday and, for most of the night, were no match for a Bulls team with its share of issues.
“We realize we have a great opportunity to win and we can’t come out with a lackluster effort,” Gordon said.
Chicago’s Luol Deng said he doesn’t expect to play Saturday against Oklahoma City and was eyeing a return against Portland on Monday. He doesn’t want to rush back, though. “I don’t want to play 10 minutes and then sit down the next game, and then come back again and keep going back and forth,” he said. “Right now, we need a rhythm.” … The Bulls were 13-for-15 from the foul line after going 33-of-36 against Sacramento. … Young’s previous career-high was 27 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 30, 2008.