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WASHINGTON (AP) — Playing their first game without Dwyane Wade, the Chicago Bulls almost pulled off an improbable comeback against the Washington Wizards.
That's small consolation for a struggling team fighting for a playoff spot.
Bradley Beal scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, John Wall dished out a career-high 20 assists to go with 14 points, and the Wizards held on to defeat the Bulls 112-107 on Friday night.
Minus Wade, whose fractured elbow will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, the Bulls were down 19 points at halftime before getting as close as one.
"I hate this word, 'soft.' I hate it, but that's exactly what we were," Butler said of his team's start. "They beat us to every 50-50 ball, worked our tail in transition, we turned the ball over. Those things that we've talked about all year long replayed in that first half."
Chicago rallied and eventually had a chance to tie it, but a well-guarded Butler missed a 3-pointer from the wing with 3.9 seconds left.
"I'll take that shot," Butler said. "Maybe I should've side-stepped a little bit. You can say all this stuff now, but I had a great look at it."
Butler finished with 28 points and Robin Lopez added a season-high 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, who began the night in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, and have lost seven of eight.
Wall, playing despite spraining his left foot in Wednesday's loss to Dallas, sank four free throws in the final minute, including two with 1.8 seconds left.
Washington's Jason Smith, starting in place of Markieff Morris who was a late scratch due to illness, tied his season high with 17 points and Ian Mahinmi had a season-high 16.
"It was solely attributed to John," Smith said of his output. "He was distributing the ball to everybody."
Washington, 21-4 in its last 25 games, had lost two straight, allowing 119 and 112 points.
"We got back to defending the right way, guarding our guy individually," Beal said. "They made some tough shots and some big 3's here and there, but for the most part I thought we did a solid job.
The Wizards led 49-40 late in the first half when Smith's jumper started a 10-0 run that was capped by Wall's 3-pointer that circled the rim and dropped as the half ended.
Those were Wall's only points of the half, but he had 12 assists.
"There's only a few guys in the league that can dominate a game with passing, and he's one of them," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
The Bulls rally began in the third quarter and Nikola Mirotic's 3-pointer with 1:24 left pulled the Bulls within two at 104-102. Wall's 20th assist then produced Marcin Gortat's layup.
Butler hit a 3 to pull Chicago to within one with 39.7 seconds left before Otto Porter's two free throws put Washington up 110-107 with 18.4 seconds to go.
After getting 19 assists three times in his career, the Wizards' all-time assist leader finally got 20. "I knew I had a chance," Wall said. "I knew also that I had to play the right way because it was a close game, so you just couldn't worry about those. Just try to get the win."
Asked before the game if the Bulls were watching the out-of-town scoreboard as they chase a playoff berth, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg responded: "I think you have to. I think everybody will look it. Got back-to-back games, and 12 left after that. The biggest thing is worry about us, hopefully go out and play with great urgency."
Bulls: Hoiberg said G Cameron Payne (sore right foot) is "feeling a lot better," but will be out through Saturday's game and then be re-evaluated. ... Mirotic finished with 15 points and Valentine added 11. ... Rajon Rondo had 10 assists.
Wizards: Attempted only one free throw in the first half. ... Have given up over 100 points in nine straight games. ... Won the season series 3-1.
Bulls: Host the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
Wizards: At the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.
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