East titans clash when Bulls take on Wizards

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Eastern Conference contenders clash Friday night in the nation's capital, as the Chicago Bulls put their impressive road record to the test against the Washington Wizards.

The Bulls are 14-4 away from the Windy City and are just ahead of the Wizards in the standings. Chicago went 3-2 on a recent homestand and was dealt a 97-77 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

Jimmy Butler had 16 points, Taj Gibson gave 15 off the bench and Pau Gasol collected 13 points and six rebounds for the Bulls, who made just 33.3 percent from the floor, connected on 6-of-20 3-pointers and turned the ball over 16 times. Derrick Rose had seven points and hasn't shot better than 35 percent in each of his last six games.

The normally defensive-minded Bulls allowed 34 points in the fourth quarter and lost for only the second time in the previous 12 games.

"I don't wont to overreact, but I don't want to under-react either," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterward. "You always ask yourselves before you start, there's two questions: did you play hard enough and did you execute properly? The readiness to play, that part is really my responsibility. I didn't like that part of it at all."

Thibodeau's squad is 16-5 against teams from the East and 10-1 on the road against conference foes. After visiting DC, the Bulls will return to Chicago for three straight games versus Milwaukee, Orlando and Washington.

Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy (ankle) is questionable against the Wizards.

Washington will try to make it three straight wins Friday and posted a 101-91 triumph over the hapless New York Knicks Wednesday night.

Nene scored 20 points and John Wall finished with 18 and eight assists to lead the Wizards, who scored 30 points in the first quarter and shot 51.3 percent. The Wizards used a big 17-5 run in the second half to pull away.

"It was important for us," Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said of the strong start to the second half. "When you're dealing with a team that's going through transition, obviously with the trades and what's going on with their team, you want to come out right away and don't give them any life."

Rasual Butler netted 14 points and both Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat ended with 12 points. Gortat also grabbed 11 rebounds.

The Wizards, who are 19-1 when holding teams under 100 points, improved to 15-4 at the Verizon Center and 16-6 against conference opponents. They are 9-2 at home versus the East.

Wall is averaging 18.0 points and 10.8 assists at home this season. He has recorded 11 of his 20 double-doubles in front of the home crowd.

Washington will visit the East-leading Hawks on Sunday and suffered a 99-91 loss to the Bulls on Dec. 23 at home. Wall and Gasol both scored 18 points in that one, while Rose led all scorers with 25 points.

The Wizards eliminated the Bulls in five games during the first round of the playoffs last season. The teams will meet again Jan. 14 and March 3.