WASHINGTON (AP) -- Gone are the days when Washington Wizards luck
was all bad. This year's team must have collected a few four-leaf
clovers, or at least enough to make a deflected ball somehow end up
in Antawn Jamison's hands for a wide-open, game-winning layup.
With Larry Hughes racing the length of the court and the
clocking running down, Charlotte's Brevin Knight knocked the ball
away from behind -- and right to Jamison, who put it off the glass
and into the basket with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the
Washington Wizards a 106-104 comeback victory over the Charlotte
Bobcats on Sunday.
"It's almost like the basketball gods were looking out after
us," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said.
The Wizards, who have already clinched their first postseason
berth in eight years, won their fourth straight and moved within
one game of Chicago with two to play in the race for the No. 4 seed
and homecourt advantage the first round in the Eastern Conference
playoffs. The Wizards hold the tiebreaker over the Bulls.
Washington also finished 29-12 at the MCI Center, its best home
record in the arena since it opened in December 1997 and the
franchise's best overall home record since 30-11 in 1988-89.
"It's character wins, half of them," Jordan said. "Guys
coming back, guys having a lot of willpower and determination to
stake their claim and protect homecourt."
Hughes finished with 28 points and four steals, Gilbert Arenas
had 27 points and eight rebounds, and Jamison had 26 points and 13
rebounds for the Wizards, who trailed by 11 with 7:14 to play
against a game, hard-luck Bobcats team missing its two top scorers.
The Bobcats played without leading scorer and rebounder Emeka
Okafor, who bruised his right thigh in Saturday's 100-98 loss to
New York, while center Primoz Brezec missed his third straight game
with a sprained ankle. In addition, Gerald Wallace didn't play the
last seven minutes because of a sore left shoulder.
Malik Allen got his first start of season in coach Bernie
Bickerstaff's 24th starting lineup of the season. Charlotte dressed
just nine players, prompting Bickerstaff to say, "We got more
coaches than we got players" after the starting lineups were
Yet the Bobcats stayed close throughout and were upset with the
officiating in the final seconds. Knight felt he was fouled by
Hughes when driving to the basket with six seconds left -- Hughes,
in fact, said it was a foul -- and the Bobcats guard had to be
restrained as he pursued officials at midcourt after the final
Knight wouldn't comment on the call afterward, but Bickerstaff
was clearly upset over the no-call, especially given that it
resulted in the second two-point Bobcats loss in as many days.
Charlotte has lost 16 games by three points or fewer.
"I think they deserved better than that," Bickerstaff said.
"They didn't get what they had coming. It should be won on the
Matt Carroll scored a career-high 22 points for the Bobcats,
which had six players in double figures.
Charlotte led 90-79 with 7:14 left, but the Wizards finally
awoke with an 11-2 run off a pair of jumpers each from Hughes and
Still, the Bobcats led 104-100 with 90 seconds to go, but two
straight turnovers by Knight kept the Wizards in the game. Hughes
converted one of the turnovers into a fast-break dunk to make the
Arenas tied the game at 104 with a drive through the lane with
27 seconds to play, but he missed the free throw that would have
given him a three-point play and the Wizards a one-point lead.
Knight then missed his contested shot, setting up the final dash
down court that resulted in Jamison's fluky game-winning layup.
"They did everything they had to do to win the game," Jordan
said of the Bobcats, "except they didn't get a break at the
Bobcats part-owner and rap star Nelly had seats along the
baseline and yelled "Don't" when the Wizards attempted free
throws, prompting smiles and laughs from Washington's players.
Jamison even smiled and said "He got me" after missing one with
3:36 to play. ... The Wizards won the season series 4-0. ...
Washington activated guard Anthony Peeler before the game. Peeler
had been on the injured list since April 5 with right knee
tendinitis. Forward Damone Brown was placed on the injured list
with right shoulder tendinitis. ... Michael Ruffin, the last
remaining Wizards player to take part in every game this season,
finally sat one out because of a bruised heel. ... Bickerstaff was
the last coach to take the Wizards to the playoffs.