The Washington Wizards won their second straight in as many nights Saturday in an 86-73 victory over the visiting Chicago Bulls. Emeka Okafor paced the Wizards with a 15 points, 16 rebounds double-double, his ninth of the season. Bulls center Joakim Noah fell a point shy of a triple-double with 9 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists in defeat.
“He (Okafor) was incredible. He’s been incredible,” said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame. “He got one rebound tonight towards the end there where he went up with two hands and I didn’t know if he was coming down. He’s been consistent and an anchor from a defensive standpoint as well, but when he gives you 15 and 16 and he does it pretty consistently–12 and 12, 10 and 13–that’s big. That’s important for us.”
Okafor is averaging 14.6 rebounds over Washington’s last five games (3-2), and the Wizards are now 7-7 over the month of January. Front court teammate Nene added a team-high 16 points in the victory, Washington’s eleventh of the season. With Okafor at center and Nene at power forward, the Wizards are 6-10.
“We punched first. We gave the first game in Chicago, but you know what we do. We get back,” said Nene postgame. The Bulls beat the Wizards at Chicago late December, and if there is ever a chance for Washington to avoid a season-series sweep, Nene is their man. Washington’s forward-center returned late last season despite a nagging foot injury and became an integral part of Washington’s 6-0 run to end 2011-12. When asked why he decided to risk further injury with a return, Nene said “they (the Bucks) beat us three times this year and I just felt like I was healthy enough to give it a go.” ABC ought to consider guest spotting Nene on their hit show “Revenge.”
“That is how kind of potential we have,” continued the eleventh-year pro in his Brazilian accent. “I remember in the beginning everybody say we sucks, and now we start proving point. Now we start playing our game and have back all the players. That is our team. We are going to shut up people mouth, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Wizards guard John Wall contributed 15 points and 7 assists in his second start of the season, while Bulls reserve guard Nate Robinson led all scores with 19 points in defeat. The Wizards are 2-0 with Wall as a starter and 6-3 since his season debut.
“It’s not just me. Never just me,” said a humble Wall. “It’s my team. I just wanted to come in and be a spark for my team. Just play my game. I think I’m just doing a great job of getting easy shots for my teammates and making the game easy.” Wall recorded only 2 of his 7 assists in the second half but each assist came at just the right time, including a textbook pass off a screen and roll which opened Okafor for a sweet mid-jumper with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
On the other side of the court, Wall hassled Robinson as best he could. He poked for the ball and even dove at one point in an attempt to disrupt any chance of a fourth quarter Bulls comeback. “That just shows his hustle, his IQ for the game and just his desire, his passion,” said backcourt teammate Bradley Beal. “He’s full of energy 24/7. He’s just making winning plays.” Beal struggled on the night, going 2-for-10 from the field, but found confidence in his teammates. “Guys are able to step up and create equal opportunities for everybody. We’re just confusing the defense because they don’t know who we’re going to go to. It’s been great so far.”
The Wizards will try to make it three in a row Monday in their third of three at home, as Washington looks to top the visiting Sacramento Kings (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN). For more on the Chicago Bulls, check out Chris Cason at Chicago Bulls Examiner and on Twitter @C4DUNK. For more on the Wizards be sure to follow Washington Wizards Examiner @DCWIZ.