WASHINGTON (AP) -- Blue and white confetti fell from the rafters.
The team owner gave a teary-eyed speech in the locker room.
T-shirts were quickly distributed with the words: "One team. One
goal. Washington Wizards playoffs."
The Wizards are returning to the postseason for the first time
since 1997, securing their spot Wednesday night following a 93-82
victory over the short-handed Chicago Bulls.
The victory came just minutes before Indiana finished a 90-86
victory over the New Jersey Nets, giving the Wizards the
combination they needed to clinch with a week to play in the
regular season. Washington's players remained on the court after
their game to watch the Nets-Pacers conclusion, which was broadcast
on the MCI Center's huge scoreboard.
The victory came one day before the end of another great sports
drought in Washington. The Nationals will host Arizona on Thursday
in the city's first regular-season baseball game in 34 years.
"It's a wonderful day for the franchise," said coach Eddie
Jordan, who led the turnaround from a 25-57 season a year ago.
"It's a wonderful day for the city. I'm a fan as much as I am a
coach. I'm happy for our city."
Afterward, owner Abe Pollin met with the players to offer his
congratulations. Pollin has been belittled for promising the
playoffs nearly every season, and this time his team delivered.
"He wanted to cry," point guard Gilbert Arenas said. "You see
it in him. I know he's happy, especially from all the hits he's
been going through the last few years."
Larry Hughes scored 23 points, Arenas added 21, and Antawn
Jamison had 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Wizards raced to a
22-point first-quarter lead and never trailed against the team they
could meet in the first round. Chicago, Indiana and Washington are
vying for seeds four, five and six in the Eastern Conference.
The victory gave the Wizards a 2-1 lead in the season series
against the Bulls, a stat that would determine home-court advantage
in the first round of the playoffs if the two teams finish tied for
Coincidentally, Chicago was the last team the Bullets -- as the
Wizards were called back then -- faced in the playoffs. The Michael
Jordan-led Bulls swept Washington in the first round eight years
ago, keeping the Wizards winless in the playoffs since 1988.
Wizards starting center Brendan Haywood, activated before the
game after missing 10 games with a broken thumb, finished with
seven points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich scored 21 points apiece to lead the
Bulls, who played without leading scorer Eddy Curry (irregular
heartbeat), Andrews Nocioni (suspended) and, for most of the game,
Tyson Chandler. Chandler was ejected with 3:29 left in the first
quarter for stepping on Haywood's midsection after pushing Haywood
to the floor going for a rebound. Adrian Griffin got his first
start of the season as coach Scott Skiles used his 13th lineup.
"It was bad from the start," Chandler said. "Losing Nocioni
only added onto the players that we've lost. And then myself
getting kicked out in the first quarter, we were kind of doomed
Asked about his ejection, Chandler pleaded guilty to fouling
Haywood, but said he was doing his best to avoid stepping on the
"I wouldn't step on the dude," Chandler said. "I wasn't
trying to step on the dude."
Washington raced to a 28-6 lead by running the floor and
dominating the boards. Chicago shot 4-for-23 from the floor in the
first quarter. Hughes' running shot from midcourt put the Wizards
ahead 48-35 at the break, and they led by double digits the rest of
"We've still got a lot of things we want to accomplish,"
Jamison said. "But we finally get this one off our back and can
concentrate on making some noise in the playoffs."
Curry has been sidelined since March 28 with his medical
problem and did not accompany the team to Washington. Curry met
with doctors in Minnesota on Tuesday, but Skiles did not have an
update. He has been evaluated by specialists in three cities. ...
Bulls coach Skiles on Nocioni's suspension: "I'm not real happy
with it. I didn't think it warranted that, but I didn't get a
vote." ... Arenas went back to his usual ways, going 8-for-20 from
the field after a mini-shooting boycott during Monday's game
against Milwaukee. Arenas had just eight points and a season-high
13 assists against the Bucks because he said he wanted to lift the
play of his teammates to his own level. ... The Wizards have won
eight straight over Chicago at home. ...To make room for Haywood,
the Wizards placed Peter John Ramos on the injured list with left
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