WASHINGTON — For the first 32 games of the season, the Washington Wizards were a sorry bunch – winning only four times. The comical comparison was the Washington Generals – the punching bag for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Not so much anymore.
Emeka Okafor had 15 points and 16 rebounds, helping the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 86-73 on Saturday night for their seventh victory in the last 10 games.
Nene scored 16 points and John Wall had 15 for Washington, which has won consecutive games for the second time this season. The Wizards have won five straight at home for the first time in five years.
“We are the team we thought we were supposed to be,” Okafor said.
The run began before Wall returned from a left knee injury, and now the injury-riddled team is healthy again.
“We have back all the players. There is our team,” Nene said. “We gonna shut up people’s mouths. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Chicago (26-17) had won a season-high three in a row for the third time.
Nate Robinson scored 19 points for the Bulls, and Joakim Noah narrowly missed a triple-double with nine points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, which equaled his career high.
“I think we got beat by a team that just played harder than us tonight,” Noah said.
“We played tired basketball tonight.”
Chicago dominated Golden State at home on Friday night, leading throughout the game while Washington (11-31) easily beat undermanned Minnesota for its 10th victory of the season.
Two of the season’s first five wins came against Miami and Oklahoma City, but in many ways, this was even more impressive.
“As a coach, I’ll take it against a high school team,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said.
Wittman, whose team was decimated by injuries early this season, pointed out that star point guard Derrick Rose has yet to play for the Bulls, and All-Star forward Luol Deng missed his fifth straight game with a strained right hamstring.
“I’ve been there, but a win’s a win,” Wittman said.
Wall, who started for the second straight night, has been the catalyst for the team’s recent success.
“It’s not just me, man. It’s never just me. I wanted to come in and be a spark for the team,” Wall said.
“I’m just doing a great job of getting easy shots for my teammates.”
The Wizards outscored Chicago 23-11 in the third quarter to take a 73-55 lead. The 11 points were a season low for the Bulls. Chicago had twice as many turnovers (six) as field goals (three) in the period.
“I thought we played low energy tonight,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“You gotta get ready for everybody. … When you start taking shortcuts, the results aren’t gonna be good.”
The Wizards put together an 11-0 run late in the second quarter, holding the Bulls scoreless for nearly five minutes while building a 50-44 halftime lead.
Washington outscored Chicago 10-2 to start the third and led 60-46 with 8:58 to play. Nene hit two more field goals and two free throws as the Wizards extended the lead to 69-51 with 4:28 left in the third.