CHICAGO, May 4 (Ticker) --
Having lived on the edge all season, the
Washington Wizards nearly fell off it before they were rescued
by Gilbert Arenas
Arenas sank a pull-up 16-footer at the buzzer, giving the wobbly
Wizards a 112-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls that averted
one of the biggest collapses in postseason history.
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"That is a tough one to swallow," said Arenas, sounding as if
his team had lost the game. "We had them the whole game, and
for the game to come down to a last shot is tough. We have to
focus better than that."
The fifth-seeded Wizards grabbed the pivotal fifth game and
control of their Eastern Conference first-round series with
their third straight win over the fourth-seeded Bulls. But as
they have all season, they did it the hard way.
"We are very happy coming in here and doing what we had to do,"
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan
said. "It was just a great effort on
our part. However, we are not satisfied how we closed out the
"It was just crazy at the end," Wizards forward Antawn Jamison
said. "Gilbert just came through big for us."
Displaying the patience and teamwork that has helped them turn
around the series, the Wizards led by as many as 22 points late
in the third quarter and turned back a rally by the Bulls midway
through the final period before a last-minute meltdown.
Holding a 108-98 lead with 41 seconds to go, Washington missed
4-of-6 free throws while Chicago's Jannero Pargo
came in cold
off the bench and drained three 3-pointers, turning around fans
who were headed for the United Center exits.
"I knew I would be called on because the way the game was going
and since I had been in that situation many times," Pargo said.
"So when my number was called, I was ready."
Pargo's third 3-pointer came after teammate Kirk Hinrich
a pair of foul shots but scrambled for the offensive rebound as
the Wizards failed to box out, giving the Bulls a 110-110 tie
with 5.2 seconds remaining.
"They are tough and they hustle - they wouldn't die," Wizards
center Brendan Haywood
said. "They just got every break down
the stretch - missed free throws, big threes, loose balls,
After a timeout, Arenas took the inbounds pass above the top of
the arc, dribbled inside the circle and elevated for a jumper
over Hinrich that splashed through as the buzzer sounded,
bringing a silence over the crowd and a sigh of relief from his
"At the three-second mark, I think he thought I was going to
pull up for the three, but I wanted to take more dribble and
just jump over him," Arenas said.
In reaching the postseason for the first time in eight years,
the Wizards were a staggering 17-6 in games decided by three
points or less or in overtime by relying heavily on Arenas, an
All-Star guard who thrives on pressure.
"I knew I was going to make it," said Arenas, who was just
4-of-13 from the field before his game-winner. "I shoot those
shots every day, and when you are growing up you dream about
things like that. So when you get the chance, you don't want to
"Gilbert's shot was huge," Jordan said. "He timed it just
right. Tonight he didn't shoot well but did what was needed to
get us a win."
had 33 points and seven assists and Arenas added 16
and eight for the Wizards, who have held the lead for all but
62 seconds since the third quarter of Game Three.
Game Six is Friday at the MCI Center, where the Wizards have
beaten the Bulls 10 straight times. Washington has not won a
playoff series since 1982 or a best-of-seven set since 1979,
when it last reached the NBA Finals.
"Our back is against the wall now and we have to swing our way
out of the corner," Hinrich said.
Sixth Man Award winner Ben Gordon
scored 27 points and Hinrich
added 23 for the Bulls, who got here with defense but are having
trouble stopping the Wizards. The entire series has been
played at a pace favoring Washington, which is averaging 111.7
points in its three wins.
Refusing to rush shots and getting their big men involved, the
Wizards shot a blistering 64 percent (25-of-39) from the field
with 14 assists in the first half, racing to a 63-49 lead.
"We finally learned to pass up a good shot for a great shot,"
said Haywood, who scored 17 points. "The first two games, we
would come down and take wild threes when we got rattled."
A 3-pointer by Jamison, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds, gave
Washington an 84-62 lead before Chicago closed the third quarter
with an 11-2 surge - and kept coming in the final period.
"We waited too long," Bulls coach Scott Skiles
intensity finally got to a playoff-like level late in the third.
Until then, they were the better team and they deserved to
Gordon scored 11 points before a three-point play by Tyson Chandler
- who had 22 points and 10 rebounds off the bench -
made it 96-90 with 5:12 left. But Hughes made two free throws,
Arenas sank a jumper and Jared Jeffries
dunked for a 102-90
bulge with 3:42 to go.
Jeffries scored 12 points for the Wizards. Othella Harrington
scored 12 points and Pargo 10 for the Bulls, who made a
franchise playoff-record 13 3-pointers but were beaten on the
When asked how his team could improve its rebounding, Skiles
snarled, "Jumping would be good, for a start. Seeing where the
ball is going, getting a body on somebody, getting in the air
with two hands are a few things."