The last time head coach Vinny Del Negro and this Chicago Bulls squad met the Washington Wizards, Barack Obama was in attendance rooting for them, and the result was a 113-90 loss.
On March 23rd when the Bulls took on the Wizards there was much more at stake. The Bulls were clinging to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference by a game and a half, and they were just a game and a half behind the seventh-place Detroit Pistons. In addition, they sought revenge for the aforementioned blowout the Wizards handed them less than a month ago. The result? The Bulls won a close, hard-fought victory, 101-99.
After the game, Coach Vinny Del Negro discussed his team’s sluggish start, the courageous play of the Washington Wizards, and what his Bulls’ team needs to do as they march towards the playoffs.
Media: Talk a little bit about your play tonight. The effort wasn’t always there but obviously a lot better than the last trip here.
Vinny Del Negro: Yeah, we liked the way we competed in the second half. Obviously, we were a little bit slow out of the gate, but you gotta’ give Washington a lot of credit. I mean they played hard. Antawn[Jamison] is putting up big numbers. I thought Crittenton did a good job for them, but they just played hard and they’ve had a lot of injuries. But Ed[Tapscott] kept them together as best he could with the injury situation. Give them a lot of credit for playing hard as they did tonight.
Media: Just six turnovers tonight. Were you happy with the way you handled the ball?
VDN: We made plays down the stretch. Ben (Gordon) came in hit a couple of shots, Derrick (Rose) came in and made a play, and Kirk (Hinrich) had a nice layup. You know they (the Wizards) hit a couple of threes that we guarded well, but I liked our perseverance in the fourth quarter in terms of getting after it defensively. We hit some tough shots offensively, we executed and that was good to see. I thought we were patient in terms of our play sets, and we went to the second, third and fourth options which was good. And we got a nice jumper for Ben, so lots of good things. Its a win, it wasn’t pretty, but give Washington some credit as well they played hard.
Media: They hit a couple threes you guarded well but you had a couple of fouls on Jamison down the stretch, and you can’t really have those mental mistakes.
VDN: A couple of times on the out of bounds play they backdoored a little bit and John [Salmons] got caught and grabbed his (Jamison) jersey a little bit, but those things happen. That’s why when you have a 9 point lead or an 11 point lead, you got to handle yourself a little better and we put ourselves in a tough situation at the end. But I was happy the way we responded at the end, made some plays and a got a good road victory.
Media: What did you think about Ben tonight? He kind of had a weird game, his shot wasn’t really there.
VDN: Yeah, he was off a little bit in the first half, I didn’t think anybody was really on, our intensity wasn’t really great, so we talked about that. I thought we came out in the third quarter after halftime, and go after it and got our momentum back. We got a nice roll there, and then brought Ben back in and he made some shots down the stretch like he usually does. So everybody contributed and that’s what we have to do. I thought Tim Thomas came in and gave us a lift, and tweaked his back a little bit, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.
Media: You guys are fighting for a playoff spot, any concern that you lose a double digit lead late, and make some of those mistakes?
VDN: Of course its a concern, but the biggest concern is winning and losing. That’s what it comes down to. We made enough plays today to win, we were fortunate a little bit, but we got the job done. That’s what we came here or and we got a big game tomorrow night (against the Detroit Pistons) and we’ll work on it for tomorrow.
Media: Speaking of Detroit, you guys have been focused on 8 (in the Eastern Conference) for a while, but you’re not that far from Detroit at 7, so obviously that makes that game even more important tomorrow.
VDN: You know the way we’re looking at it is every game is important. Of course we love to move up, but we just want to stay focused on what we need to do. Tomorrow’s a whole new game, we have to come with better energy to start off. You know Detroit’s a very good team, we split with them so far this year, and we’re going to have to be ready to play.