Washington wins series 4-2 (Game 3 of 6)

Washington wins series 4-2

Game 1: Sunday, April 24th
Game 2: Wednesday, April 27th
Game 3: Saturday, April 30th
Game 4: Monday, May 2nd
Game 5: Wednesday, May 4th
Game 6: Friday, May 6th

Bulls 99

(47-35, 20-21 away)

Wizards 117

(45-37, 29-12 home)

Coverage: CSNB

3:00 PM ET, April 30, 2005

Verizon Center, Washington, DC

1 2 3 4 T
CHI 23 32 22 2299
WSH 31 26 33 27117

Top Performers

Chicago: T. Chandler 15 Pts, 10 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Blk

Washington: G. Arenas 32 Pts, 7 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

Thomas erupts from slumber with 20 points

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The game-defining moment came late in the first quarter, when the Washington Wizards became more than just the Big Three. Larry Hughes drew a double team and passed to a wide open Etan Thomas, whose two-handed dunk raised the roof and set the tone for things to come.

The Wizards won their first playoff victory in 17 years Saturday, beating the Chicago Bulls 117-99 with a big-man attack notably absent in the first two games of the series.

Thomas scored 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and led a third-quarter spurt that put his team in control, supplementing an attack that had come to rely too heavily on Hughes, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.

"He was the X-factor," Chicago guard Ben Gordon said. "He really came in for them today and had an uncharacteristic game. Usually you see Arenas, Jamison or Hughes doing something, but he was very big."

The win was the first in the postseason for the Wizards since May 8, 1988, when they beat Detroit 106-103 in Game 4 of a first-round series. Of immediate concern for the Wizards is that they cut the Bulls' series lead to 2-1, with Game 4 in Washington on Monday.

"We were very desperate," said Brendan Haywood, who added eight points and nine rebounds. "It's not impossible to come back from 0-3, but it's definitely very hard. We would have had to pull out our Boston Red Sox tapes."

The Bulls had taken a 2-0 series lead with their own X-factors -- Gordon and Andres Nocioni seemed unstoppable in Game 1, and Kirk Hinrich made nearly everything he shot in Game 2 -- but the over-the-top hero this time was a Wizards player known as much for his long dreadlocks and his book of poems called "More Than an Athlete."

Thomas took only five shots and scored nine points in the first two games of the series combined, and his performance Saturday nearly tripled his 7.1-point regular season average. He signed a six-year, $36.6 million contract last summer but missed the first 32 games of the season with an abdominal injury.

"We have a special group in the Big Three, and I'm in the supporting cast," Thomas said. "Tonight, they needed me. I had to be ready just to finish. ... We can't rely on them totally for everything."

The Big Three played their parts, but the trio gained inspiration from unsung front-court players Thomas, Haywood and Michael Ruffin, who had a season-high nine points. Arenas finished with 32 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Hughes had 21 points and seven rebounds, and Jamison had 21 points and eight rebounds.

Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead six players in double figures for the Bulls, who struggled with foul trouble in a closely called, rhythm-less game that included 67 combined fouls and 83 free throws. In addition, Gordon asked to leave the game at one point because he was hampered by a virus that caused him to miss practice Friday, and Nocioni was rocked momentarily after taking a shot to the groin in a collision with Hughes in the third quarter.

Chandler and Antonio Davis both fouled out in the fourth -- Davis was ejected when he confronted an official over his sixth foul -- and Hinrich got his fourth foul early in the third quarter.

"It is hard to beat a team three times in a row in this league," coach Scott Skiles said. "They came ready today. We were fortunate to be close at halftime. The chain of events with Kirk's foul and Andres going out, we just didn't have enough guys that played well to be in the game against a team of this quality in their building."

The Bulls' scoring was balanced, but a Wizards defense much maligned for its efforts in Chicago played more zone than usual to hold the Bulls to 39 percent shooting and dominated the last 17 minutes of the game.

The game was tight, with the Wizards leading 74-71, when Thomas and Ruffin scored nine gritty points in a 13-2 run that gave the Wizards an 87-73 lead late in the third quarter. Both of Thomas' baskets came on offensive rebounds, and Ruffin had a three-point play off a feed from Arenas.

The Bulls never got within single digits again. Feeding off the energy of the first NBA playoff game by this franchise played in the District of Columbia -- the team was in Landover, Md., when it last made the playoffs eight years ago -- the Wizards rattled the Bulls' offensive threats and pulled away with an 8-0 run that built a 20-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

"They just played harder than us, flat out," said Chris Duhon, who scored 12 points. "We didn't come and play as hard as we're capable of playing. They were just aggressive than us, and we have to find a way to slow them down."

Game notes

Chandler left the game briefly in the first quarter when he dislocated the ring finger on his left hand. ... The Wizards outrebounded the Bulls 12-4 in the first quarter, then were outrebounded 16-8 in the second. ... The fans -- at least those who showed up on time -- responded to Arenas' appeal to boo the Bulls early and often. The arena was as loud as it has ever been during the introduction of the starting lineups, but Washington's reputation as a town where fans arrive late remained intact with plenty of empty blue seats visible on every level at tipoff. Even Kwame Brown, who regularly gets booed by the home fans, got a big hand when he entered the game in the second quarter. ... The last time the Wizards franchise had four 20-point scorers in a playoff game was April 10, 1974, when Elvin Hayes (31), Mike Riordan (23), Phil Chenier (22) and Archie Clark (20) led the Capital Bullets to a 109-92 win over New York. ... Gordon played 25 minutes despite his illness, but he made just 2 of 9 shots and scored eight points. "I just didn't feel like myself," he said. "I felt a little weak at times."

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 99 117
FGM-FGA 33-84 (.393) 37-86 (.430)
3PM-3PA 7-26 (.269) 4-20 (.200)
FTM-FTA 26-34 (.765) 39-49 (.796)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 19-44 21-49
Assists 19 21
Turnovers 19 10
Steals 5 9
Blocks 4 4
Fast Break Points 7 15
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 38 (1/0) 29 (1/0)
Largest Lead 2 20

Top Performers

Tyson Chandler Chandler
Points: 15
Reb: 10
Ast: 1
Stl: 0
Blk: 4
Gilbert Arenas Arenas
Points: 32
Reb: 7
Ast: 7
Stl: 2
Blk: 2