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Bulls rout depleted Wizards
Like a tennis match involving two baseliners, the Bulls and Cavaliers keep slugging groundstrokes back and forth, grunting their way to blowouts in the race for the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed.
A 34-point Cavaliers victory over Atlanta on Saturday? Impressive.
So the Bulls answered with a 101-68 blowout of a depleted Washington Wizards team Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center. That's taking care of business with a capital "T," especially in an arena where the Bulls had lost 13 of 14.
Never trailing for the third straight game, the Bulls took advantage of a Wizards team already missing All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. Then they lost Bulls pest Antonio Daniels to a sore back.
Ben Gordon's 30 points included six three-pointers, Ben Wallace had 10 rebounds in just 31 minutes and Kirk Hinrich had 10 assists and no turnovers in 26 minutes to lead the way.
The victory pushed the Bulls to a season-high 17 games over .500, placed them on the precipice of their stated goal of a 50-victory season and, most important, held their serve on a Cavaliers team that next plays Tuesday in Philadelphia.
A Cavaliers loss then or at home Wednesday against Milwaukee, or a Bulls victory on Wednesday in New Jersey and reaching the 50-victory goal comes with a bonusthe No. 2 seed and home-court advantage in at least the first two playoff rounds.
"We just have to keep taking care of our business and play Bulls-style basketball," Wallace said.
On Sunday, that style meant a 12-0 run to open the game as the Wizards missed their first six shots and went four minutes without scoring.
It meant stifling defense that limited the Wizards to 33.8 percent shooting and 27 first-half points, matching the first-half low by an opponent this season. Antawn Jamison missed his first seven shots and scored eight points, 11.6 below his average.
It also meant 28 assists on 38 baskets and a mind-blowing 23 assists on the first 28 scores through three quarters, before the starterssave for a two-minute stint from Gordonagain sat for the entire fourth quarter.
Rest isn't inconsequential at this stage of the season.
"Energy is a big part of our success," Hinrich said. "I'll take as much rest as I can get."
That's the Bulls' sixth victory by 30 or more points this season and 10th win in 12 games, more signs that they're playing their best basketball down the stretch.
"The guys were very sharp again," coach Scott Skiles said. "The guys were in tune with the game plan. We had good ball movement again. We're obviously ready to play. That's a good sign.
"We don't have anybody relaxing. It's not like two guys played well for us. Everybody contributed. Everybody played hard. And everybody played well."
The Wizards, decimated by injuries, are going the other way. They've lost seven of eight and conceivably could drop to the seventh seed.
That means if the Bulls hold on to the No. 2 seed it's the 2005 playoffs and a first-round matchup all over againminus, well, Arenas, Larry Hughes, Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler
"We have to be ready for whoever we play," Gordon said. "In the playoffs, you can never underestimate anybody. We're just trying to take care of business no matter what."