CHICAGO -- D.J. Augustin was rolling.
With 8:08 left in regulation Tuesday's Game 2, the Chicago Bulls' diminutive point guard knocked down a 21-foot jump shot that gave him 25 points on the night. The jumper gave the Bulls an eight-point lead and they appeared to be on their way to evening up their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the Washington Wizards.
But that's when things went downhill for Augustin. It's also when things also went south for the Bulls. While there were plenty of reasons the Bulls couldn't close yet again late in a game, one of the single biggest reasons is that Wizards coach Randy Wittman switched veteran Trevor Ariza to defend Augustin.
Augustin didn't hit another shot the rest of the game -- a total of 13 minutes, 8 seconds that crushed the Bulls' offense.
"It was tough to score on him because he's 6-8," said Augustin, who stands just 6-foot. "He's long so it was tough to score on him, even to get open. I think it was a good strategy by them and we tried to counter it by going to other people, so we just got to be ready next game."
The reality that the Bulls' offense was shut down -- in large part -- due to the fact a long and athletic swingman switched onto a smaller point guard is going to give coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff nightmares as they prepare for Game 3. It's the same strategy that the Miami Heat have used in recent years to derail Thibodeau's offense. In the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, it was Miami's LeBron James who switched on to Derrick Rose and shut him down late in games. In the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals, it was James who switched on to Nate Robinson and did the same thing.
Now it's Ariza who has provided the perfect antidote to defending a Bulls' offense that was rolling along behind Augustin. As has been the case in years past, once Augustin or Robinson or Rose stop scoring, the Bulls' offense stops working. The Bulls made only four field goals in the final 12 minutes, 16 seconds.
"I think we're trying to do the right thing," Augustin said. "I think we're running our offense and guys are trying to get open, but they're playing great defense, pressuring the ball and contesting shots, so you're going to have periods like that in the game when you're not making shots and you just got to keep playing through it and keep trying to score."
The size difference and physicality was too much for Augustin to handle when Ariza switched onto him on the Bulls' final possession, the one in which Kirk Hinrich ultimately went to the line and missed two free throws. It was Ariza who denied Augustin the ball and didn't allow him a chance to tie or win the game.
The only thing the Bulls can hope is that Ariza won't be on Augustin throughout Game 3. They are hoping Augustin can continue leading them on offense.
"He's been doing that for us all year," Hinrich said. "And I knew he was going to bounce back. But more importantly we're struggling to stop them at times so we're going to have to figure it out."
The Bulls played enough defense in this one to pick up a win -- they just couldn't find enough offense to close it down. It's a recurring theme for a team that doesn't have an answer right now. The frustration is mounting, but the solution is not clear. If Augustin can't get clean looks and open up the floor for his teammates, where will they turn?
"It sucks," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I hate losing. Everybody on this team is giving everything that they have. Just disappointing. Both times we had leads and we let them slip away. I feel like they hit big shots. Big shot after big shot. You got to give credit when credit is due. They're playing at a high level and we'll be all right."
Easier said than done when the Bulls haven't been able to buy a big shot down the stretch in the first two games of this series.