WASHINGTON, April 30 (Ticker) -- Etan Thomas
and Michael Ruffin
Washington Wizards the boost needed for their first playoff win
in nearly 17 years.
Thomas scored 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting and Ruffin added
seven during a decisive third-quarter run as the Wizards got
back into their Eastern Conference first-round series by posting
a 117-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
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The victory was the first in the playoffs for Washington since it
beat the Detroit Pistons, 106-103, on May 4, 1988. The win also
pulled the Wizards within 2-1 in the series that has been
dominated by the home team.
"We felt that this was a must-win game," Thomas said. "Our
backs are against the wall but it feels good to be on our home
turf. The crowd was great. It was great to be here in front of
our fans. Chicago experienced it out there, their crowd was
supportive for them, and ours did the same thing for us. They
protected their home court and now its on us to do the same."
"It is good to taste victory," Washington coach Eddie Jordan
said. "We know this is what it takes to win playoff games. We
have to come back and improve in some areas but keep the same
effort and the same discipline and keep the focus and the
confidence here at home."
Washington needed somebody to step up to assist Gilbert Arenas
and Antawn Jamison
, who accounted for 66 percent of
the team's offense in the first two games. Thomas and Ruffin
answered the call.
"It wasn't that we weren't giving a good effort," Thomas said of
the difference between the first two games. "We just had to
make some adjustments. We felt like we had a lot to improve on,
but we kept our confidence up. We didn't get down on each
other and we'll continue to be there for each other as a team.
We made the adjustments and now we have to do it again for
Thomas, who had just nine points and six rebounds in 33 minutes
in the first two games, scored 16 in the first half and helped
Washington control the offensive glass. Thomas grabbed five of
his nine rebounds on the offensive end as the Wizards grabbed 21
offensive boards - one more than they had in their first two
Ruffin, who played just three minutes in Game Two after not
playing in the opener, converted a three-point play, a jumper
and two free throws as Washington used a 13-2 run over a
three-minute span to take an 87-73 lead with 90 seconds to play
in the third quarter. He finished with nine points and three
rebounds in 21 minutes.
"(Thomas and Ruffin's) contributions normally don't show up on
the stat sheets, especially Michael Ruffin's," Jordan said.
"But they have specific roles; they are not looking to be a main
scorer or a consistent scorer. We want them if they happen to
catch in the paint to finish or get to the free-throw line.
Obviously we want them to set picks and to defend. They were
big tonight on the defensive end and helping us sustain more of
a defensive presence."
"Michael Ruffin has been good all year long," Wizards center
said. "His nickname is "The Intangible" because
we say he does all the intangibles. He does all the little
things like big rebounds, strong putbacks, charges, steals,
being in perfect position for rotations. He does things like
that that are invaluable. He's done it all year long and
tonight he did it even more.
Part of Chicago's struggles were due to playing without Kirk Hinrich
for most of the third period. He picked up his fourth
foul in the first minute of the period.
"For whatever reason we just didn't come out a halftime and lost
our energy," Hinrich said. "It just wasn't what it was in the
first half. We had a lot of guys in foul trouble, including
myself. It's frustrating because you try to play hard and try
to play aggressive but need to stay out of foul trouble at the
same time. It's hard to play with fouls against a team that
attacks you like this."
Both Tyson Chandler
, who paced six players in double figures
with 15 points, and Antonio Davis
After Davis scored to cut the deficit to 93-83 with 8:41
remaining, Jamison capped an 8-0 burst with two baskets for a
101-83 lead two minutes later.
"The only team in the East to win on the road was Indiana,"
Arenas said. "So everybody from the Eastern Conference was
coming home to recover on their homestand. We did our job
tonight, but we have another game on Monday."
Arenas, who scored 39 points in Game Two, had another big effort
in this one with 32, seven rebounds and seven assists. Hughes
and Jamison chipped in 21 points apiece.
"We talk about Gilbert Arenas a lot," Davis said. "When he has
the ball, everyone needs to be aware that he has the ball. And
I think we just let him do a little too much today."
Hinrich, who scored 21 of his career-high 34 in the fourth
quarter of Game Two, scored just four of his 13 points after
The Wizards led by as many as 12 points in the first half before
settling for a 59-57 advantage at the break.
Game Four is here Monday.