WASHINGTON, April 30 (Ticker) -- Etan Thomas and Michael Ruffingave the 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, Larry Hughes 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 Monday."

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 games combined.

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 Brendan Haywood 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 fouled out.

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 intermission.

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.