Wizards, Bulls try to survive without star players
CHICAGO -- The Washington Wizards are learning first-hand what life is like without John Wall and, at least for the foreseeable future, playing short-handed will continue to be their reality.
The Wizards have won five of their last seven games heading into Saturday's road test against the Chicago Bulls, who -- like the Wizards -- continue to play without one of their key contributors -- starting guard Kris Dunn.
But coming off a frustrating overtime loss to the Boston Celtics, the Wizards must find a way to surge ahead without Wall being available.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters Friday that Wall, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, will remain on crutches for at least another week as he continues to rehab from an arthroscopic debridement procedure he underwent Jan. 31.
Injuries have been an issue for the Wizards (31-24) all season as Washington's regular rotational players have missed 33 games this season according to The Washington Post. Wall, who has missed 18 games, leads the way while Markieff Morris has missed seven. The Post reported that Morris missed practice on Friday with a hand injury after he played 30 minutes against the Celtics.
But as Wall continues to mend from a surgical procedure that could keep him out for an extended period, the Wizards will have to look to others -- including Bradley Beal -- to come up with big shots in Wall's absence.
"We have to get used to it," Beal told reporters after the overtime loss to the Celtics, according to the Washington Times.
Beal missed 20 of 27 shots against the Celtics on Thursday. But Brooks realizes that with Wall out, someone has to step up and make plays and Beal might be the best option until Wall returns.
The Bulls, meanwhile, still continue to struggle without Dunn, who remains out with a concussion. Still, even without its designated on-floor traffic cop, Chicago (19-35) snapped a seven-game losing streak on Friday with a come-from-behind 114-113 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Zach LaVine sparked the victory over his former team with 35 points and scored Chicago's final 11 points as the Bulls won for the first time since Jan. 20.
Against the Wizards on Saturday, the Bulls will look to snap a four-game losing streak to Washington while also looking to improve on its 2-7 record this season in games played on back-to-back nights.
The Bulls, who erased a 17-point deficit to end their seven-game skid Friday against Minnesota, are also 2-7 since Dunn sustained the injury on Jan. 17 against Golden State. On Friday, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg compared Dunn's toughness to former Bulls star Jimmy Butler.
But like the Wizards playing without Wall, the Bulls must find a way to play without Dunn until he's healthy enough to return.
"Well, we miss him, there's no doubt about that, but you can't use that as an excuse," Hoiberg said earlier this week, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "Kris is a guy that's shown that he can be relied on. He's really evolved into the closer for this team, and when we had that great month in December, he was a huge part of that."
Updated February 10, 2018