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19-19

Bulls-Wizards Preview

AP - Sports

The Washington Wizards are brimming with confidence after racing by the two-time defending champions.

The team knows it can't get too arrogant, though, with a rematch against a Chicago Bulls team that will be seeking revenge.

The Wizards look to get back to .500 by beating the Bulls for the second time in five days Friday night in the nation's capital.

The cards seemed to be stacked against Washington (18-19) for Wednesday's matchup with Miami. The Heat were motivated by trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak in the regular season in two years while the Wizards had lost seven of eight at home.

Washington set the tone early, however, going on a 20-0 run to take a 43-18 lead after one quarter and was up by as much as 34 in a 114-97 win.

"If we play 50 percent of the way we played tonight we'll be in a good position at the end of the season," forward Nene said.

John Wall had 25 points and Bradley Beal and Nene scored 19 apiece to lead seven players in double figures for the Wizards, who shot a season-high 54.7 percent and made 10 of 22 3-pointers.

"Hopefully ... hopefully we can put this behind us," center Marcin Gortat said. "Everything is still in front of us. We got to stay focused and we can't get excited. We've already been there and we've lost too many games. We've been excited too much and we've lost a lot of games."

The Wizards, who were last at .500 on Dec. 30, had lost five of seven heading into Monday's matchup in Chicago, but they came away with a 102-88 win. Wall had 19 points, seven assists and four steals and Nene scored eight of his 19 points in the final period as Washington withstood a Bulls rally.

"Now we got Chicago," coach Randy Wittman said. "That's going to be a tough battle again as it was the other night but if we continue to build like we have been we can get some things going."

The Bulls (18-19), who are tied with the Wizards for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, are trying to avenge their only loss in the last seven games and get back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 27, when they were 7-7.

They're also looking for a better defensive effort after allowing the Wizards to shoot 52.0 percent and become the first team in eight games to reach triple digits against them. Chicago is limiting opponents to an average of 92.8 points and 43.1 percent shooting and is 1-8 when allowing teams to score 100.

That lone win came Wednesday as Chicago bounced back with a 128-125 triple-overtime victory at Orlando. Joakim Noah had season highs of 26 points and 19 rebounds and Jimmy Butler played a franchise-record 60 minutes and scored 21 for the Bulls, who improved to 4-1 since trading Luol Deng.

''We're grimy and we play as a team,'' Butler said. ''There is no guy that doesn't give all the effort on every single play. Whenever you play like that, good things happen. The basketball gods will reward you.''

The Bulls, however, didn't play with an edge against the Wizards, according to coach Tom Thibodeau. Washington scored the game's first eight points and Chicago turned the ball over 18 times after averaging 13.2 during its preceding five-game win streak.

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