CHICAGO, April 24 (Ticker) -- Gilbert Arenas
had none of Ben Gordon
Gordon scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter while
Arenas was blanked as the Chicago Bulls rallied for a 103-94
victory over the Washington Wizards in the opener of their
Eastern Conference series.
NBA TV highlights from |
In perhaps the most intriguing first-round series, the
fourth-seeded Bulls used their familiar formula of tough defense
and timely offense from Gordon, who scored in double digits in
the fourth quarter 21 times during a spectacular rookie season.
"I just got into a rhythm early and I was hitting my shots,"
said Gordon, who made 11-of-19 shots. "I was just pulling them
out of my (hat)."
The Bulls also got a huge effort from rookie Andres Nocioni
had career highs of 25 points and 18 rebounds, helping
Chicago's depleted front line.
"He was the best player on the floor," Gordon said. "He did
everything. He played both ends of the floor he rebounded the
ball for us. He scored points and was the player of the game
Arenas, Washington's All-Star guard who averaged better than 30
points in three games against Chicago this season, was held to
nine on 3-of-19 shooting. Known to take charge down the
stretch, he missed seven shots in a scoreless fourth quarter.
"Every time I had the ball they were there," Arenas said. "They
were waiting for me and every time I shot the ball they had a
hand in my face."
Playing in its first playoff game since winning the title in
1998, Chicago trailed by five points entering the fourth quarter
before Gordon made two free throws, a 21-footer and a 3-pointer
in a 10-2 surge that gave the Bulls the lead for good at 87-84
with 8:18 to go.
After a runner by Antawn Jamison
, Gordon was fouled shooting a
3-pointer and made all three free throws for a 90-86 advantage.
The Wizards pulled within two points on four occasions but could
get no closer. A basket by Jamison made it 94-92 with 4:38
left, but teammate Etan Thomas
missed two foul shots 21 seconds
Gordon's dunk off a steal by Antonio Davis gave Chicago a 96-92
lead with 3:46 left. Brendan Haywood
's dunk halved the deficit,
but Washington did not score again, missing its last five
"The two back-to-back turnovers with about 3:43 to play, that's
what hurt us," Arenas said. "Until then, it was a winnable
Nocioni gave the Bulls some breathing room with a 3-pointer at
the 2:26 mark. Accused by Arenas of being a "dirty" player, the
Argentine played all 48 minutes and stepped up in the absence
of Eddy Curry
and Luol Deng
, who are out for the season.
"Sometimes (rebounds) come," Nocioni said. "Sometimes it's just
your night; they just go to your hands. Sometimes it is just
luck, but I tried to get all rebounds and was just lucky
tonight. Eddy is not here or Luol and it is a big game so I do
what I had to do."
"I don't know what got into him," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich
"He was huge for us and he was a warrior."
In the fourth quarter, the Bulls repeatedly broke up the dribble
hand-offs of the Wizards, disrupting the rhythm of Arenas and
, who scored 31 points but none in the final period.
"I'm not worried about it," Arenas said. "Sometimes you just
miss shots. It happens. I can't be Superman every game."
"They made some scrappy plays and got to the free-throw line,"
Hughes said. "We did not make smart plays in the fourth
Hinrich scored 17 points for the Bulls, who limited the Wizards
to 38 percent (33-of-86) shooting and held a 54-44 advantage on
the glass. They host Game Two on Wednesday.
Jamison scored 14 points and Kwame Brown
added 13 - all in the
first half - for the fifth-seeded Wizards, who are in the
playoffs for the first time since 1997. They have not won a
postseason game since 1988, a series since 1982 or a
best-of-seven series since 1979.
In the final minute, Brown had to be helped off the floor with a
bruised right knee after Nocioni accidentally rolled into him.
In the first half, Hughes scored 24 points but Arenas and
Jamison combined for just three on 1-of-14 shooting. Gordon
scored 18 points as Chicago grabbed a 53-52 lead.
"The second quarter was a Ben Gordon-Larry Hughes shootout,"
"I thought our offense was good enough. It's just that Gilbert
didn't get untracked," Jordan said. "Being only a point down at
halftime with Gilbert not getting a field goal and Antawn
shooting poorly was pretty good for us."
Arenas scored nine points in a seesaw third quarter that saw the
Wizards go on a 10-0 run, the Bulls responded with an 11-2
burst and the Wizards closed the quarter with a 12-4 surge for
an 82-77 lead.