WASHINGTON, April 13 (Ticker) -- Larry Hughes
and Gilbert Arenas
lift the Washington Wizards to their first playoff appearance in
Hughes scored 23 points and Arenas added 21 as the Wizards
returned to the postseason with a 93-82 victory over the
shorthanded Chicago Bulls.
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Combined with a loss by New Jersey (38-40), Washington (43-35)
qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1997. It
has not won a postseason game since 1988 or a series since 1982.
"Now we get the opportunity to really shine in the postseason,"
Hughes said. "We've come a long way from last year and it feels
good as a team."
"We have some solid character guys in our locker room, guys who
are committed to being a good team and doing what it takes to
win games and get to this level," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan
said. "We are still a young, growing team and this is the
beauty of it."
In his second season as Washington's coach, Jordan was excited
for the playoff-starved city.
"It is a wonderful day for the franchise. It is a wonderful day
for the city," he said. "I am fan as much as I am a coach. I
am happy for the city, I am happy for our fans and I am happy
for the Washington D.C. community."
Washington is tied with Indiana for the fifth seed in the
Eastern Conference, but the Pacers own the tiebreaker.
Fourth-place Chicago (44-34) is one game ahead of the Wizards,
who claimed the season series against the Bulls with Wednesday's
"We still have a lot of statements to make," Arenas said. "Maybe
this was a statement, but we're not done. We have four games
left and we want home-court advantage. We want to win out."
Arenas scored 10 points as the Wizards steamrolled to a 28-12
advantage after one quarter by holding the Bulls to just 17
percent (4-of-23) shooting.
"Arenas averaged 35 against us in the first two games so he
showed a little mercy on us tonight," Bulls coach Scott Skiles
said. "I feel like he could pretty much score whenever he wanted
to, he just didn't tonight, probably because they had such a
big lead. We have not had an answer for him yet this year."
Already playing without starters Eddy Curry
, Luol Deng
, the Bulls had to deal with the first-quarter
ejection of key reserve Tyson Chandler
, who leads the team in
"I think the ref might have overreacted too early because I
didn't actually touch him," Chandler said. "I didn't even kick
him. He landed on my foot and I got ready to and I seen him
there so I pulled my foot back.
"It was an overreaction too fast and I got kicked out of the
game and cost my team. Yeah, that was a foul. I fouled him. He
was boxing me out and I tried to get past him and pushed him to
the ground. But he kicked me out because he said he thought I
kicked him. I didn't kick him. You can look at the tape and it's
obvious I didn't kick him."
Without Chandler, the Bulls struggled all night on the boards,
getting outrebounded, 64-48.
"It's a little bit of a mystery right now why we came out so
flat," Skiles said. "I'm not saying we should've come in here
and dominated the game and won when we're so shorthanded, but
why we started so slow is something I'm going to have to get the
Despite the height disadvantage, Chicago battled back in the
second quarter behind rookie Ben Gordon
, who scored 10 of his 21
points in the period. Rookie Chris Duhon
, who added 16, cut
the deficit to 41-34 on a 3-pointer with 1:33 left in the half.
As they did all night, the Wizards pulled away every time the
Bulls narrowed the margin. Hughes narrowly beat the buzzer with
a mid-court 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 48-35 at halftime.
"We just wanted to win," Hughes said. "We wanted to take things
into our own hands and definitely get a victory. We wanted to
jump on top of them."
The Bulls rallied to cut it to 54-44 with just under eight
minutes in the third quarter before Antawn Jamison
and Steve Blake
capped a 23-10 burst with back-to-back 3-pointers to give
Washington a 77-54 advantage with a minute remaining.
Hughes predicted that the Bulls won't have an answer for the
Wizards if they meet in the playoffs, either.
"I don't think they want to play us," he said. "I feel confident
in what we do. They're a solid defensive team, but at the same
time we have guys who can react and create in different
situations whereas it's hard for those guys to stop us on
defense. If we play solid, we feel good about this matchup."