Wizards Simply Have No Defense; Bulls Exploit Team's Woes

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Byline: John N. Mitchell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The glaring weakness the Washington Wizards successfully covered up for much of this feel-good, breakout season - a persistent inability to defend - is now a hemorrhaging problem for all to see.

And the Chicago Bulls, direct beneficiaries and owners of a 2-0 lead in the teams' first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, sound as if they don't believe the Wizards have enough time to correct the problem.

"If you haven't been playing defense all year, it's unlikely that you'll be able to just turn it on in the playoffs," said Chicago sub Eric Piatkowski, whose Bulls visit MCI Center for Game3 of the best-of-7 series tomorrow night.

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich eviscerated the Wizards in Chicago's 113-103 victory in Wednesday's Game2, scoring 21 of his team-high 34 points in the fourth quarter. He connected on 12 of 15 shots and made all five of his 3-point attempts without seeing a hand in his face - an absolute indictment of the Wizards' defense.

"I felt every time I shot it, it was going to go in," Hinrich said. "I felt like I was taking good shots, in good rhythm. The ball just seemed to find me in good positions, and I was able to knock it down."

Before the playoffs began, the Wizards pretty much acknowledged they are what they are: an offensive team that wins by outscoring opponents.

This played well during the regular season as the Wizards averaged 100.5 points, the franchise's most since scoring at a 102.5-point clip in 1995-96.

But relying on offense in the playoffs is a recipe for disaster.

After the Wizards took a 13-point lead early in the second quarter Wednesday, the Bulls converted an absurd 70 percent of their shots. …