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Dramatic J sends Wiz to D.C. with 3-2 lead

CHICAGO (AP) -- Gilbert Arenas bailed out the Washington Wizards
after they'd blown a 22-point lead and were ready to collapse.

That's what stars do.

Now Arenas and his team are one victory away from the second
round of the NBA playoffs for the first time in 23 years.

Arenas hit a 14-foot jumper at the buzzer Wednesday night,
foiling a remarkable comeback by the Chicago Bulls and giving
Washington a 112-110 victory and a 3-2 series lead.

"I knew I was going to make it. I shoot those shots every
day," Arenas said.

"You dream about it when you are growing up and when you get
that chance, you don't want to blow it."

Chicago's Jannero Pargo hit a 3-pointer, his third in a
34-second span of the fourth quarter, to tie the game with 5.2
seconds remaining.

But after a timeout, Arenas took the ball out front, moved left
with Kirk Hinrich guarding him and hit one of the biggest shots of
his career.

"I think he (Hinrich) was counting the time in his head, too,
so with 3 seconds left he probably thought I was going to pull up
for the '3'," Arenas said.

"But I was going to take one more dribble and try to use my
athleticism and just jump over him."

His soft jumper sent his teammates to the floor in celebration
and silenced a United Center crowd that had been roaring throughout
the Bulls' comeback.

"The crowd wasn't in it until the last 2 minutes of the game,
so going to overtime wouldn't have been good for us because they
had all the momentum. It would have seemed crazy," Arenas said.

Game 6 is Friday at the MCI Center and the Wizards have beaten
the Bulls 10 straight times on their home floor. The last time
Washington won a playoff series was in 1982, when it defeated New
Jersey 2-0.

Chicago's chances seem slim, especially after such a devastating
defeat on the heels of such a spirited comeback.

"I was just trying to play him the best I could. I knew he
would shoot the ball," Hinrich said of his defense on Arenas.

"I tried to challenge it without fouling, hoping he'd miss and
we'd go to overtime. It was a tough shot. If I had to do it over
again, I would not let him go left. It's just heartbreak. ... It's
a dagger."

The Wizards were wilting in the stretch, missing six free throws
in the final 2 minutes and squandering a 10-point lead with 41
seconds remaining.

"We're not satisfied with the way we closed it out," relieved
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.

"I had chance for the last shot, but we shouldn't have been in
that predicament," Arenas said.

"Their guards were shooting lights out and made four
consecutive `3s'. You don't see that often, especially under that
kind of pressure. Pargo didn't play all game, came in and was
3-for-3."

A pair of 3-pointers by Pargo and another by Hinrich with 11.6
seconds left cut the lead to 109-107.

Larry Hughes then sank the second of two free throws with 11.4
seconds to go -- 14 seconds after Antawn Jamison had missed a pair
from the line -- to put Washington up by three and set the stage for
a wild finish.

The Wizards then fouled Hinrich before he could get off a
3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left.

Hinrich missed both, but after the second one bounded back to
the line, he scrambled for the ball and somehow flipped it to
Pargo, who hit a 3-pointer from the left side to tie it.

"All year our bench players know they can be put in at any
point and I knew my number would be called," Pargo said. "I've
been in that situation."

But Arenas who finished with 16 points on just 5-for-14
shooting, put an end to the Bulls' comeback with his smooth shot
over Hinrich.

Hughes scored a playoff career-high 33 for the Wizards.

Jamison, dodging foul trouble, scored 19 points and had 10
rebounds. And Washington got a big lift from Brendan Haywood, who
scored 17 after averaging six points in the first four games.

Ben Gordon scored 27, Hinrich 23 and Tyson Chandler 22 with 10
rebounds for the Bulls, making their first playoff appearance since
Michael Jordan won the last of his six titles. Pargo scored nine of
his 10 points in the final quarter.

Washington went up by 84-62 in the third quarter and it appeared
the Bulls didn't have enough energy this time to catch up. But they
did.

Gordon, shaking off a 1-for-13 performance in Game 4, hit a
driving floater at the third-quarter buzzer to get the Bulls to
within 86-73.

Chicago whittled it back to 10 when Gordon hit a 3-pointer and
two free throws with just under nine minutes remaining.

Gordon sailed through the lane for a layup to make it 94-85 with
7:17 remaining and then hit a banker. After an offensive foul on
Hughes, Chandler took a pass from Hinrich and slammed it through,
converting a three-point play that cut it to 96-90 with 5:12 to go.

Washington led by 14 at the half and then scored three easy
baskets to start the second for a 20-point lead.

Chris Duhon, who played sparingly in Game 4 because of back
spasms, then hit two straight 3-pointers and the Bulls eventually
cut the lead to 12.

Hughes scored 18 first-half points on 6-for-11 shooting, pulling
up for open jumpers at will against Chicago's sluggish defense as
the Wizards took a 63-49 halftime lead.

Washington made 14 of its 19 first-quarter shots (74 percent) --
Hughes was 5-for-6 with 13 points as the Wizards went up by 11.

It marked the fourth straight game the Wizards broke out to a
sizable lead, including a 17-3 run to start Game 4.

Game notes
Gordon, who won the Sixth Man Award on Tuesday, said he had
no problem finishing runner-up to former Connecticut teammate Emeka
Okafor for rookie of the year. "I was happy for him," Gordon
said. Gordon and Okafor, who led Connecticut to the 2004 national
title, exchanged congratulatory messages.