WASHINGTON, May 6 (Ticker) -- Jared Jeffries
could have dribbled all
the way to Miami.
Jeffries picked up a loose ball and went in for an uncontested
tiebreaking dunk with 32 seconds left, giving the Washington
Wizards a 94-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls and their first
playoff series win in 23 years.
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The fifth-seeded Wizards closed out their Eastern Conference
first-round series in six games as they became just the ninth
team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven affair after losing
the first two games.
"I have said before that half of our wins have come on
character, toughness, and just will and determination," Wizards
coach Eddie Jordan
As it has all season, Washington played on the edge, improving
to a remarkable 19-6 in games decided by three points or fewer
or in overtime. It trailed by as many as nine points in the
final period before staging a frenetic rally highlighted by a
pair of freaky inbounds passes.
A three-point play by Michael Ruffin
- his only points of the
game - gave the Wizards an 87-87 tie with 3:48 left. Two free
throws by Chris Duhon
and a bucket by Tyson Chandler
Chicago a 91-87 advantage and forced Washington to call timeout.
stole the ensuing inbounds pass and streaked in for
a layup that would have given the Bulls a six-point lead. But
soared to block the shot, leading to a runner by
at the other end.
"That was a great play," Jordan said. "Gilbert didn't shoot
well (6-of-24); however, the best the best players that have a
will and determination to win will do anything to help their
"We just had trouble in the last 2 1/2 minutes executing," Bulls
coach Scott Skiles
said. "Arenas made the big block, and they
came down and scored, then we had a really hard time after
A steal by Hughes set up a corner jumper by Antawn Jamison
made it 91-91 with 2:08 to go. Washington had a chance to take
the lead, but Brendan Haywood
missed two free throws.
The teams traded a pair of empty possessions and the Bulls
called timeout. Duhon ran toward Hinrich to receive the
inbounds pass but turned his back as Hinrich passed to him.
"We were going to run a backdoor, but Duhon came off wide open
and I knew they weren't overplaying him," Hinrich said. "My
first instint was to throw the ball to him but he wasn't
"I thought we were doing one thing and Kirk thought we were
doing another thing," Duhon said. "It was my fault. I should've
been looking at the ball anyway."
The ball bounced off Duhon right to Jeffries, who streaked in
for the go-ahead basket that sent the MCI Center into a frenzy.
"We played straight-up defense and Jared got the steal and the
layup," Jordan said.
"He just stole the ball and took off," Arenas said. "I've never
seen him run that fast."
missed an off-balance 3-pointer and Juan Dixon
split a pair of foul shots, giving the Bulls one last chance.
missed a 3-pointer that was rebounded by Chandler, who inexplicably shot a 15-footer that was rebounded
by Arenas and hurled into the stands as the horn sounded.
The Wizards won a playoff series for the first time since
sweeping New Jersey in a best-of-three series in 1982. This was
their first best-of-seven series win since 1979, when they last
reached the NBA Finals.
The reward is a trip to Miami to face the top-seeded Heat, who
have not played since Sunday. The Wizards have lost their last
eight meetings with the Heat.
Hughes scored 21 points and Arenas and Jamison added 19 apiece.
Haywood had 13 and Jeffries 12 for the Wizards, who survived
despite shooting under 40 percent (34-of-86) from the field and
missing 10 free throws.
"We stayed focused. That's us," Hughes said. "That's what
we've been doing all year. We trust each other and trust that
someone is going to make the play. The guys on this team just
refuse to lose sometimes. This was one of those nights."
Nocioni and Hinrich scored 22 points each for the fourth-seeded
Bulls, who have lost 11 straight games here. This marked the
first time in 28 series that Chicago did not win when holding
the home-court advantage.
"You have to play every night and this series we didn't,"
Hinrich said. "They came to play more often than we did and
that's why we're going home."
The Bulls were in control for virtually the entire game. They
held lead of 10-3, 45-36 and 74-64 after a 17-5 run during which
Hinrich scored 10 straight points for Chicago.
Washington still trailed, 80-73, after a jumper by Nocioni with
8:39 left. Arenas, the hero of Game Five, came alive with a
feed to Haywood for a dunk, a 3-pointer that ended a string of
eight misses and two free throws that cut the deficit to 81-80
with 6:24 to play.