WASHINGTON (AP) — If the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards meet in the first round of the playoffs, the Bulls will have a nice little blueprint to follow.
The Bulls dominated from the get-go Saturday night and never trailed in a 96-78 win over the Wizards, avenging two losses from earlier in the season and providing perhaps a psychological edge if these teams are cranking up for a seven-game series in a couple of weeks.
"It was definitely a statement game," Washington forward Drew Gooden said. "We were going in the mindset of this being a statement game, getting a possible matchup in the first round, and they took it the same way. They wanted to make a statement early."
And they certainly did, holding the Wizards to 16 points in the first quarter and 10 in the second while building a lead that grew as large as 28 points. At one point, Washington was 0 for 7 from the 3-point line and 0 for 3 from the free throw line for the game, as well as 2 for 13 from the field in the second period.
"They were taking shots they didn't want to take," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said.
D.J. Augustin found plenty that he liked, as long as he was behind the arc. He led Chicago with 25 points, making 6 of 11 3-pointers but only 2 of 8 2-pointers. Joakim Noah had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer added 16 points for the Bulls, who have won five straight and are tied with the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Augustin has averaged 19.8 points during the winning streak.
Unlike the Wizards, who freely talked about a rematch in the playoffs, the Bulls didn't want to think that far ahead.
"We lost to these guys at home. We lost to them here. It was just getting this win tonight," Augustin said. "We're not looking forward to the playoffs just yet, but we wanted to come out tonight and do it for ourselves."
John Wall scored 20 points, and Marcin Gortat had 19 for the Wizards, who sit in sixth place in the East. If they hold that spot, they would face the third-seeded team.
Several Washington players cited fatigue as an issue on the back end of a back-to-back, but coach Randy Wittman noted that Chicago played Friday night as well. It also didn't help that Trevor Ariza played through an illness and went 1 for 9 from the field.
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