Gordon scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, and
Nocioni added 25 points and 18 rebounds while playing all 48
minutes to lift the Chicago Bulls to a 103-94 victory over the
Washington Wizards on Sunday. It was Chicago's first playoff
victory since the dynasty days.
"This is great for the franchise," Gordon said. "We haven't
been here in so long."
The playoffs could be regular event again in Chicago if Gordon
keeps playing this way. The third overall pick in last summer's
draft has reached double figures in the fourth quarter 22 times
this season, but none was bigger than this show.
Already hampered without ailing starters Eddy Curry and Luol
Deng, the Bulls looked like they might come up short with Tyson
Chandler in foul trouble and Gilbert Arenas hitting some clutch
shots late. But just as he's done all season, Gordon was there to
carry the Bulls.
"We're riding Ben like we always do," said Kirk Hinrich, who
finished with 17 points on a rough shooting night.
Gordon's late-game heroics have many in the city calling him the
next Michael Jordan, as in, "Gordon, rhymes with Jordan." He
shies away from the comparisons, but it's hard to argue with the
Trailing 82-77 going into the fourth, Gordon scored 10 points as
the Bulls opened with a 13-4 run. He got it started with a pair of
free throws after getting fouled by Anthony Peeler, then followed
with a jumper from the top of the key. On the other end of the
floor, Chris Duhon poked the ball away from Juan Dixon and took it
in for a fast-break layup, cutting Washington's lead to 84-83 with
8:42 to play.
After a timeout, Nocioni tied the game on a free throw, and
Gordon hit a 3 to put Chicago ahead for good, 87-84, with 8:18 to
play. He pushed the lead to 90-86, making all three shots when he
was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Larry Hughes.
Gordon also had a scoring tear in the second quarter. He made
four straight baskets, scoring 10 points in a span of just 3:16.
The loss spoiled a superb night by Hughes, who scored 24 of his
31 points in the first half on 10-of-12 shooting. But the Wizards
got little from the rest of their Big Three. Arenas scored nine
points -- 16 below his average -- on 3-of-19 shooting, and Jamison
had 14 points.
"Me and Antawn can't go, what, 7-for-40 and not expect a
loss," said Arenas, who had eight assists. "But it's one game.
It's the playoffs. You get seven games and keep playing the whole
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in
"We played a great game, but it's just one game," Nocioni
said. "I need to forgot this game and think (about) the next
Still, considering how dismal the last seven years have been,
the Bulls can be excused if they savor this one.
This is Chicago's first playoff appearance since Jordan's Bulls
won their sixth title in 1998, a drought as horrid as it was long.
Chicago lost 341 games from 1999-2004, going through countless
players and almost as many rebuilding plans.
They made a remarkable turnaround this year, and it looked
almost like the good old days at the United Center. The Bulls even
broke out black shoes for the first time this season. Black shoes
were an unofficial part of the playoff uniform in the dynasty days,
and the current group wasn't about to mess with the tradition.
The Wizards made an impressive turnaround of their own, making
their first playoff appearance since the 1996-97 season. Much of
the credit goes to Arenas, Hughes and Jamison, who were the most
prolific scoring trio in the NBA this year at 67 points a game.
But the Big Three was down to the Big One in the first half.
Arenas, who came into the game averaging 25.5 points, was scoreless
on 0-for-6 shooting. Jamison had three on 1-of-8 shooting.
Fortunately for the Wizards, Hughes was there to pick up the
slack. He topped his previous career high for a playoff game in the
first half and was a perfect 6-for-6 in the second quarter.
"In the first half, it felt good for me," Hughes said. "Our
two main scorers were not really rolling yet. I tried to be
aggressive and take my shot. Until they got into the game, I tried
to hold the Bulls off."
Arenas and Jamison finally got on track in the second half.
Arenas made his first basket 45 seconds into the third quarter, and
he and Jamison finished off a 10-0 run with back-to-back 3s that
gave Washington a 67-60 lead -- its largest of the game -- with 7:24
left in the quarter.
But they couldn't keep the momentum going.
"Offensively, it just wasn't going our way," Jamison said.
"We're not jumping off the deep end yet."
Nocioni's 18 rebounds was the most by a rookie in a playoff
game. ... Hughes' previous career high for a playoff game was 14,
against Orlando in 1999 when he was with Philadelphia. ... Kwame
Brown left the game in the final minute with a bruised right knee.
He'll be re-examined Monday and hopes to play Wednesday.