WASHINGTON – The Bulls lost more than a game Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
Down the same four rotation players to injury in Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and Derrick Rose, they lost their edge, a seven-point halftime lead, their rebounding prowess, their defensive transition knowledge and Kirk Hinrich to a fourth-quarter ejection.
Of greatest significance, far more significant than the 90-86 final that marked the Wizards’ eighth straight home victory, the Bulls also lost Taj Gibson to the same MCL sprain in his left knee that previously sidelined him for 10 games.
Though team officials wouldn’t estimate how long Gibson will be sidelined until an MRI exam is completed today, the versatile big man moved gingerly in the postgame locker room and said his knee “feels the same as when I hurt it the first time.”
The Bulls took the first 4 minutes, 8 seconds of the fourth period to score, missed four of five fourth-quarter free-throw attempts and shot poorly from all departments, including 5-for-23 from 3-point range. Still, they trailed just 83-82 when Nazr Mohammed tipped home Hinrich’s miss.
That basket got waved off to offensive interference, and Hinrich, arguing the no-call on his drive and miss, drew two quick technicals and the ejection from official Sean Corbin.
Mohammed, who posted season highs with 36 minutes, 12 points and 12 rebounds, put back Luol Deng’s miss with 56.6 seconds left for an 86-86 tie. But Emeka Okafor dunked off a Nene assist set up by John Wall’s penetration, and Jimmy Butler missed an 18-footer.
Ariza sealed matters with two free throws with 8 seconds left. Wall finished with 27 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
The loss wasted Mohammed’s strong effort and Carlos Boozer’s sixth double-double in seven games, which featured 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
“It’s definitely another big blow,” Hinrich said of Gibson’s injury. “We have to hang together and find some healthy bodies. We’ve been short-handed all year. It’s nothing new to us. We have to find a way.”
Star of the game: Nazr Mohammed, Bulls, 12 points, 12 rebounds
Up next: Bulls at Nets, 6 p.m. Thursday
TV/Radio: TNT/1000 AM