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Chicago Bulls beat Washington Wizards 101-99
WASHINGTON — Start practicing the chant, the one that pairs Detroit with a word that rhymes with pucks. Maybe break out some Bill Laimbeer footage for good measure.
Whatever serves as motivation, Tuesday's home game against the Pistons suddenly looms even larger.
The Bulls made it so with Monday night's 101-99 victory over Washington, which wasn't artful except for what it did to the Eastern Conference standings.
The victory increased the Bulls' lead over ninth-place Charlotte to 11/2 games and 10th-place Milwaukee to two games but, more importantly, pulled them to within two games of seventh-seeded Detroit.
And Tuesday night just happens to be the first of two remaining games against the Bulls' once most bitter rival.
"If we can get seventh, we'd love to be there," Derrick Rose said. "It's going to take hard work and dedication."
And better starts and finishes.
Just shy of a month after an embarrassing loss here, the Bulls came out flat again, trailing by 12 in the first quarter against the Eastern Conference cellar-dweller that played without Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Darius Songalia.
The Bulls still trailed 47-41 at halftime despite Tim Thomas re-entering the rotation and playing well with nine points before succumbing to back spasms. He'll visit a chiropractor on Tuesday.
But then Ben Gordon, who scored all of his team-high 21 points in the second half, heated up with 14 third-quarter points.
The Bulls built a 10-point lead with an 18-2 run as Joakim Noah — big with nine points, 12 rebounds and four blocks — stuffed Andray Blatche on back-to-back shots and they began converting in transition. Gordon jumped to shoot a three but found a streaking John Salmons, who had 19, for a fast-break layup.
The Bulls led 88-77 midway through the fourth when Antawn Jamison, who led all scorers with 34, went on a personal 8-0 run.
That's when Gordon, whose minutes fluctuated oddly, went to work. After not playing at all in the second quarter, Gordon also sat for the first 8 minutes 3 seconds of the fourth despite his hot third.
But his two jumpers sandwiched around a Salmons' fast-break layup from a Rose feed made it 98-89 with 1:43 left.
"I was frustrated, so I wanted to play well," Gordon said.
Washington's Mike James tossed in a three-pointer despite defensive pressure. Gordon missed and Jamison made two free throws. Hinrich missed and JaVale McGee dunked to make it 98-96. But Rose, who tallied 12 points, eight assists and one turnover, dribbled through the defense for 20 seconds before hitting a cutting Kirk Hinrich for a layup.
"They just told me to make a play," Rose said.
Nick Young tossed in a ridiculous three-pointer over Salmons with 3.6 seconds left. After Gordon missed the second of two free throws with 2.6 seconds left, Jamison's three-quarter-court heave went wide.
"The biggest concern is winning and losing," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We made enough plays down the stretch to win."