Wizards-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls continue to respond well after trading away their leading scorer.

The Washington Wizards are hoping for a positive response now that they are on the road again.

The Bulls can extend their win streak to a season-high six straight and reach .500 for the first time since Nov. 24 when they meet the Wizards on Monday night.

Chicago (17-18) has won all five games in January, with the first two coming with Luol Deng on the team. Deng, who averaged 19.0 points for Chicago, was dealt Jan. 6 to Cleveland in a move that made many of the Bulls unhappy.

The Bulls, however, have maintained their winning ways and won 103-97 at home over Charlotte on Saturday. Joakim Noah had 19 points and 14 rebounds and made his first public comments about the deal afterward.

''The trade definitely hurt,'' Noah said. ''We've got to move on, but I feel confident in this team. We're working really hard.

''A lot of people say this is a business, and all that, but this game is more than a business to me. I put everything I've got into this. Lu was the same way, so it was hard for me to digest. That's just my perspective. Everybody has a different job. I'm not mad at anybody.''

The Bulls were last at .500 after 12 games.

While it is clear that Chicago is playing hard despite being undermanned, Washington didn't put forth enough of an effort to please coach Randy Wittman in Saturday's 114-107 home defeat to Houston. The Wizards (16-19) rallied from a 25-point second-half deficit to take a five-point lead in the fourth quarter only to fall for the fifth time in seven games.

"We short-cut everything and when you do that, you get down 25," Wittman said. "Now we got (ticked) off at me, at each other - well if that's what it takes, that's what it takes and we came back for about 17 minutes there and played as hard and with heart than we did any other point of that game. But you can't play 17 minutes in an NBA game against a good team and that's what we did."

The Wizards have won six of their last eight on the road compared to losing seven of eight at home.

"For some (reason) on the road, we execute things better, we go through the plays full speed, we don't short-cut ourselves," said point guard John Wall, who had 23 points and 10 assists. "But at home we take short cuts and we're not protecting our home court like we should."

Wall will be in the spotlight since he has the ball in his hands for a league-high average of 8.1 minutes entering play Sunday and is second in the NBA with 73.5 passes per game.

Wall is a big reason why 60.9 percent of Washington's baskets come off assists to rank the club in the top 10. That's an area the team-oriented Bulls excel in at 64.0 percent to rank second.

Chicago's last six-game win streak was Feb. 20-March 7, 2012, when it won eight in a row with Deng and Derrick Rose.

These teams split four meetings last season, with the home team winning each. The Wizards have dropped eight of their last nine in Chicago.

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