Bulls, Wizards set for conference clash

(SportsNetwork.com) - Two Eastern Conference powerhouses tangle on Wednesday night when the Chicago Bulls welcome the Washington Wizards to the United Center.

The Bulls have dropped three of their last four, including two of three at home. Both of the setbacks in their building were disappointing as the Bulls fell to the Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic.

However, despite the poor play, the Bulls are tied for the third spot in the Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors. Both are a half-game behind the Wizards, based on Washington's win on Tuesday. The Atlanta Hawks own a four- game cushion over the Wiz for Eastern Conference supremacy.

Chicago's recent setback was demoralizing as the Magic came to the Windy City on Monday and left with a 121-114 victory.

Pau Gasol continued to dominate in January, though the Bulls fell to 4-3 in the month. Gasol posted 28 points and 14 rebounds, the fourth time this month that he's collected at least 27 and 14.

Derrick Rose added 18 points and seven assists as Chicago fell for the third time in four games on the heels of a 10-1 stretch.

"We're not sharp right now," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Win one, lose one. You can't go anywhere like that."

Jimmy Butler finished with 17 in the loss. Aaron Brooks chipped in 12 off the bench and Nikola Mirotic added 11.

The Magic shot 48-for-81 (59.3 percent) from the floor and outscored Chicago 58-40 in the paint, though the Bulls held a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points.

The Wizards have won four of their last five, with the only setback coming in ugly fashion Sunday in Atlanta.

On Tuesday, Washington ended a 17-game losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs with a 101-93 home victory.

John Wall had 25 points and eight assists, but the real hero was Kevin Seraphin. He scored 11 of his season-high 17 points in the fourth quarter for the Wizards, who beat San Antonio for the first time since Feb. 9, 2005.

"He's getting more and more comfortable of understanding what we want out of him," Wall said of Seraphin.

Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce added 13 points apiece, and Marcin Gortat pulled down 11 rebounds.

The Wizards beat the Bulls in Washington on Friday as Gortat led the way with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Each team has a victory this season in DC. The Wizards knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs last season in just five games and the teams have split the last four regular-season meetings in Chicago.