WASHINGTON (AP) — Derrick Rose scored 24 points, Luol Deng had 14 in his return from an injury, and the Chicago Bulls gained ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race Friday night with a 95-87 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Joakim Noah added 10 points and eight rebounds in his return to Chicago's starting lineup. The victory put the Bulls 1½ games behind the Toronto Raptors, who currently hold the eighth and final postseason spot. The Raptors were idle Friday.
Taj Gibson added 14 points and tied a career high with 16 rebounds for the Bulls, who have taken advantage of a soft patch in the schedule to win five of seven games and are getting healthier down the homestretch.
Deng, back after missing 11 games with a strained right calf, went 6 for 8 from the field in 28 minutes as a sub. Noah, who has been coming off the bench while recovering from plantar fasciitis, started for the first time since Feb. 3 and went 4 for 6 in 26 minutes.
Rose hit two buzzer-beaters in the first half and rammed home an alley-oop from Noah that capped a 17-5 rally gave the Bulls some breathing room in the fourth quarter of a game that had been close throughout. Rose threw in a 7-footer after grabbing a scrappy offensive rebound at the end of the first quarter and nailed a 23-footer as the clock time expired in the second quarter.
Andray Blatche had 18 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Wizards, who set a franchise record with their ninth straight home loss. Washington snapped a franchise-record, 16-game overall losing streak Wednesday at New Orleans.
The latest on Chicago's nicks and strains took up nearly all of coach Vinny Del Negro's pregame meeting with reporters — "Next time, can we just send the doctor out?" he asked half-jokingly — so he was happy to see some positive developments. Besides Noah and Deng, James Johnson (seven points) is playing with a strained right foot and Kirk Hinrich (10 points) is recovering from a sprained left ankle.
The Wizards led 73-70 late in the third quarter, but they then made only one field goal over a span of nearly 9 minutes. Gibson made a pair of layups to get the Bulls going, Deng added a jumper and a free throw, Hakim Warrick had three buckets, and then came the alley-oop to Rose that put Chicago ahead 87-80 midway through the fourth.
NOTES: Washington F Al Thornton missed his fifth straight game with a strained right hip flexor. ... Wizards swingman Quinton Ross left the game in the second quarter with a bruised back and did not return. ... The Wizards held a pregame ceremony to honor former All-Star Phil Chenier's 25th anniversary as the team's TV analyst. ... The Wizards' previous longest home losing streak was eight games from Dec. 17 to Jan. 8 in the 1966-67 season.