WASHINGTON, May 2 (Ticker) --
showed no fear, and all of a
sudden, the Washington Wizards also are looking fearless.
Dixon scored a career-high 35 points and the Wizards built a
huge lead en route to a 106-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls
that evened their Eastern Conference first-round series at two
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After dropping the first two games of the series, the
fifth-seeded Wizards returned home to post an emphatic 117-99
victory in Game 3 for their first postseason win in nearly
17 years. Dixon scored just two points on 1-of-10 shooting in
Showing no hesitation, Dixon came out firing in this one.
Entering the game with 3:17 left in the first quarter and the
Wizards already ahead by double digits, he scored 14 points in
just over six minutes as the lead ballooned to 42-22 with 8:49
left in the first half.
"I just tried to get up as many shots (the last couple of days)
as possible to get my rhythm back," Dixon said. "Last game I was
rushing a little, so I wanted to slow the game down in my head.
Tonight I was able to find my rhythm and it felt good."
A Baltimore native who led Maryland to the national title in
2002 when he was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final
Four, Dixon had scored just 25 points on 8-of-34 shooting in the
first three games of the series.
"We needed someone to step up, and I'm happy to be able to do
it," Dixon said. "There is always going to be a lot of focus on
the 'Big Three' so we need someone to step up, like
) did for us last game. I struggled in the last three
games but I didn't lose my confidence."
"Juan is one of the toughest players I've ever been associated
with," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan
said. "He came in the last two
days and really worked on his game and his shot. ... He has won
at Maryland and he wanted to be a big part of the playoffs and
have an impact. He certainly had an impact tonight."
Dixon, who made 11-of-15 shots and all 10 of his free throws,
kept things going until the end. He scored the Wizards' first
nine points of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 89-63,
then went 6-of-6 from the line in the final 30 seconds.
"The people love Juan," Jordan said. "They watched Juan for four
years at Maryland, and they appreciate what he has brought to
the community. Everyone loves to see him get in a groove."
The Wizards relaxed with the huge lead and the Bulls rallied
behind little-used reserve Jannero Pargo
, who made four
3-pointers and scored 16 of his season-high 18 points in the
Pargo's shot from the arc with 23 seconds left pulled the Bulls
within 102-96. But Dixon made four free throws around a runner
by Kirk Hinrich
to seal things.
"I felt like we had good looks, especially early. We just
weren't able to make them," Bulls coach Scott Skiles
once that ball got rolling, we had a difficult time after that.
We just really struggled with our poise under their pressure."
It was a struggle for Bulls rookie Ben Gordon
, who managed just
eight points on 1-of-13 shooting. He is 3-of-22 in the last two
games after playing well in the first contests.
"Ben hasn't gone 1-for-13," Skiles said. "We need Ben to make
shots, that's no secret. But he's a young player in the
playoffs for the first time. If all our focus and effort is on
Ben Gordon, who's rescued us so many times this year - there
have to be other players on our team step up besides just Ben."
Skiles is unsure if his team gained any momentum by playing well
when the game was out of reach.
"I don't know if there will be any carry-over or not," he said.
"It's still 2-2 and we still have home-court advantage."
Playing with a sense of urgency, the Wizards never trailed,
built a 17-3 lead less than five minutes into the contest and
led by as many as 28 points in the second half before getting
sloppy down the stretch.
"That would be called a whuppin' where I come from, and there
would be a word in front of it, too," Skiles said. "Right from
the beginning, obviously, they just attacked us. We just didn't
have any answers.
"Juan Dixon got going, and once he got going, we had trouble
stopping him. We just looked wide-eyed out there. Their
athleticism and quickness really got to us early in the game."
added 23 points Antawn Jamison
netted 14 of his
18 in the first half for the Wizards, who have not won a
postseason series since the first round in 1982.
Washington shot 54 percent (21-of-39) in the first half, when it
built a 61-37 lead. It was a horrific start for Chicago, which
nearly had as many turnovers (nine) as baskets (10) in the first
half, when it shot just 24 percent (10-of-42).
Hinrich scored 18 points and Tyson Chandler
had 13 and 13
rebounds for Chicago, which hosts Game 5 on Wednesday.
"We couldn't make plays and we couldn't stop them," Hinrich
said. "It's unfortunate because we have to realize the situation
and we had an opportunity to go ahead 3-1. For whatever reason,
we didn't have it. It's inexcusable. We played like some
"We get down in an atmosphere where it's a little intense and a
little competitive, where everybody in the arena is not on our
side, and we almost shriveled up and we just acted like we
didn't want to be there. We didn't compete."