WASHINGTON (AP) -- With the game in doubt in the final five seconds,
Rick Brunson was chasing the rebound. He got a hand on it, but he couldn't get the angle to keep it inbounds, mainly because Etan Thomas was there, too.
The ball went out. No foul was called. Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was incensed because the no-call cost his team a last chance to win. He drew a double technical and an automatic ejection, leaving the game with 3.1 seconds remaining in the
Washington Wizards' 94-91 victory Friday night.
"What I saw, whether it bears out or not, was Thomas pushing him," Dunleavy said. "And I thought he tripped him."
As it was, the Clippers lost their fourth straight after winning the opener on their nine-game trip. The Wizards, meanwhile, finished a perfect four-game homestand, getting the type of break that has them on pace for their first playoff appearance since 1997.
Gilbert Arenas scored 14 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, reaching the 30-point mark for the ninth time in 14 games, and
Antawn Jamison hit a 3-pointer that broke a 90-90 tie with 45 seconds remaining. The Wizards (30-19) sputtered along to win their 30th game before the All-Star break for just the sixth time in franchise history. They made the playoffs the other five times. They also improved to 20-7 at home, after winning just 17 home games all last season.
"There's going to be games where everything is rosy," Jamison said. "There's going to be games like tonight where it was kind of ugly. Good teams find a way to get it done, whether it's nice and pretty."
After Jamison's 3-pointer, Los Angeles' Bobby Simmons made 1-of-2 free throws with 30 seconds remaining to make the score 93-91. Arenas then missed badly with a jumper with the shot clock running down, leading to the scramble between Thomas and Brunson. Had a foul been called, Brunson could have tied the game at the free-throw line with 3.1 seconds left.
"I don't know what he saw, but I know what I felt," Brunson said. "He pushed me in the back, but I don't have a whistle."
Instead, Arenas was at the line, making the free throw from Dunleavy's technical for the game's final point.
"Hey, we were both going for the ball," Thomas said. "That was it. It was off of him, but I guess he thought that I pushed him or something, but I don't know."
The ending frustrated a Clippers' team that has lost four straight by a combined 12 points.
"A rebound here, a call here, and that's the difference," said
Elton Brand, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds. "It's very frustrating because the teams ahead of us are losing, but the teams behind us are winning, so we need to get back on the right track."
Simmons, a marginal role player for two seasons with the Wizards, returned to score 24 points to lead the Clippers. Corey Maggette, playing as a reserve in his second game back from a collarbone injury, scored 20 points. Brunson had 13 assists as a reserve.
Arenas had five steals and matched his season high with nine assists for the Wizards. Jamison finished with 17 points, and
Brendan Haywood had 13 points and nine rebounds.
The game was close throughout -- neither team had a double-digit lead -- but it was marred by 33 turnovers and sporadic shooting. The Clippers made just 4-of-12 3-pointers, and the Wizards made just 11-of-17 free throws through three quarters before nailing 10-of-12 in the fourth.
"Another great win," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "Another game where we fought tooth and nail until the end."
Wizards guard Larry Hughes had the pin removed from his broken right thumb Friday, and forward Kwame Brown has been moving around better since having the boot removed from his injured ankle earlier this week. Both are on pace to return the week following
next weekend's All-Star break. "We're looking at both guys coming back at the same time," Jordan said. ... Jordan made playful trash talk while discussing how Southeast leader Miami will improve if the Heat sign Alonzo Mourning. "Bring 'em on. We can't wait to see Miami," Jordan said. Of course, the Wizards have already finished with all four regular-season meetings with the Heat. "We're done with them," Jordan said in mock disgust. ...
Simmons, a candidate for most improved player of the year with the Clippers, averaged only 3.5 points with the Wizards before joining Los Angeles in 2003. ... Washington has won five straight against Los Angeles.
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