Perhaps Rajon Rondo knew before everyone else that he would finally get back onto an NBA court on Tuesday night. After getting five straight DNP-Coach’s Decision marks in his box score, courtesy of Fred Hoiberg, the veteran point guard ran his mouth to the media leading up to their game against the Washington Wizards.
Barely an hour after calling the reason for his benching “bullshit”, Rondo was the first man off the bench for the Bulls. Dwyane Wade was resting on the second night of a back to back in a current stretch of five games in seven nights. Jimmy Butler was back home in Chicago, nursing himself back to health. Nikola Mirotic caught whatever Butler has and was a late scratch. Hoiberg didn’t really have much of a choice.
Rondo looked aggressive immediately, getting to the basket and dishing out several assists in his first minutes since 2016. The afterthought “alpha” led a depleted Bulls team to a 36-26 edge after the first quarter, and they maintained a double digit lead beyond halftime. Rondo finished with 12 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds in 27 minutes. He also looked more lively on the defensive end, tallying 3 steals.
But the Wizards made a run, and Hoiberg’s undermanned squad couldn’t hold on. John Wall hit two big shots in the final minute of the 4th quarter, and the Bulls couldn’t respond.That’s what happens when there’s no Jimmy “Jordan” Butler on the floor in crunch time. The end result was a 101-99 loss for Chicago, who fell back below .500 again to 19-20.
Rookie Denzel Valentine came back from a three game absence in a big way. Before re-spraining his left ankle last week against Charlotte, he drained 3 of his 5 three point attempts. He picked up where he left off, scoring a career high 19 points on 5-11 shooting from downtown.
The Bulls bench stepped up in a big way, dominating the Wizards’ reserves 48-16. Hoiberg used everyone at his disposal except 2016 2nd round draft pick Paul Zipser.
After getting manhandled by Steven Adams and Enes Kanter in their loss to the Thunder on Monday, the Bulls bounced back inside. Robin Lopez (14 points) had an efficient night in the post, and the Bulls outscored Washington in the paint 40-38.
John Wall led Washington with 26 points. His backcourt sidekick Bradley Beal chipped in with 19.
Next Up: The Bulls head to New York to take on Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and the Knicks. After a mysterious disappearance caused him to miss their game on Monday, Rose is back with the Knicks and expected to play in their game against Philadelphia on Wednesday. Tipoff between the Bulls and Knicks at Madison Square Garden is Thursday at 7:00 PM CST.