Bulls press ahead to face Wizards without Wade

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WASHINGTON — While the Eastern Conference-contending
Washington Wizards try solving their recent defensive woes, the
Chicago Bulls must figure out how to continue their playoff
push without Dwyane Wade.

The Bulls (32-36) announced Thursday that Wade will miss the
remainder of the season because of a fracture in his right
elbow. The 12-time All-Star and Chicago’s second-leading scorer
(18.6 points per game) suffered the injury in Wednesday’s loss
to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Results from an MRI revealed the worst and ended Wade’s first
season playing for his hometown team prematurely.

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“It sucks,” Wade told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s not the way I
would have written it. I’ll just move past it, get better and
no surgery, so that’s one thing I’m happy about. I’ll just
rehab and hopefully get on the court at the end of this year.
If not this year, at some point next year.”

Chicago enters the fourth and final meeting against Washington
(41-26) in 10th place in the Eastern Conference but only a game
behind the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff
spot.

The Wizards are battling for one of the East’s top seeds, but
fell 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics after suffering a
rare home loss. Washington led the Dallas Mavericks by 12
points in the second half but lost 112-107 on Wednesday.

Scoring isn’t the issue. Led by guards John Wall and Bradley
Beal, the Wizards are fifth in the NBA at 109 points per game
and fourth in 3-point shooting ( 37.7 percent). The recent
issues involve stopping the other side from keeping the
scoreboard humming.

Dallas shot 50.6 percent from the field and made 14 of 32 on
3-point attempts, including 7 of 12 in the fourth quarter.

Their 39 points in the fourth quarter were the most for the
Mavericks in any game this season, but the not the most points
allowed by the Wizards in a quarter this week. Minnesota scored
41 in the first quarter as the Timberwolves defeated Washington
119-104 on Monday.

“We were letting guys have open 3’s, layups,” Beal said.
“Pretty much whatever they want. It was our defense that lost
the game.”

The loss to the Timberwolves prevented the Wizards from the
first 5-0 road trip in franchise history. During that stretch,
which included two overtime periods, Washington allowed 121
points per game.

“The one thing I love about coaching this team is we always
figure it out,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “Everybody has
to do their job and everybody is responsible for losses and
wins. We have to figure it out together, but we have to get
better defensively.”

Denzel Valentine and Nikola Mirotic will receive larger roles
for the Bulls without Wade, but they need a better version of
Jimmy Butler. The three-time All-Star is averaging 17.5 points
while shooting under 38 percent from the field in 11 games
since the All-Star break. For the season, he leads Chicago at
23.2 points per game on 44 percent shooting.

“The biggest thing is just to continue to put him in spots to
be successful,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought we
got him some really easy looks (Monday in Charlotte) as far as
getting in the paint and kicking out.

“He was really aggressive shooting 3s that game, stepping up
with no hesitation. He also did a great job attacking closeouts
and getting to the rim.”

Washington leads the season series 2-1, including a 101-99 win
on Jan. 10.

Chicago is last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 32.4 percent.

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