An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: Arenas beats the buzzer
Day 16 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Washington Wizards. The Wizards franchise has one NBA title, and has five playoff appearance since the 1991-92 season.
Date: May 4, 2005
Situation: The No. 5 Washington Wizards and the No. 4 Chicago Bulls are tied, 2-2, heading to Game 5 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Context: Prior to the 2004-05 season, the Wizards had made one playoff trip in the last 16 years, a first round exit in 1997. What’s more, Washington hadn’t won a playoff series since 1981-82, Gene Shue’s second year as head coach. The Wizards cycled through 11 coaches since Shue, landing on Eddie Jordan for the 2003-04 season. After winning just 25 games, Jordan orchestrated a 20-game turnaround, with the Wizards finishing 45-37, the franchise’s most wins since 1978-79, enough to earn a spot in the playoffs. Led by the high scoring backcourt of Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes, Washington drew the Bulls in the first round. After dropping the opening two games in Chicago, the Wizards bounced back to win Game 3 by 18, and Game 4 by seven, setting up Game 5 back at the United Center.
Recap: Washington dominated from the tip-off, hanging 34 points on Chicago in the first quarter on the way to a 63-49 halftime lead. The Bulls never really threatened, and with 38 seconds left, trailed 109-101. Jannero Pargo then went to work. In a 34-second period, Pargo hit three triples, including a dramatic corner trey with 5.2 seconds left after Kirk Hinrich missed two free throws to remarkably tie the game up at 110. But as time expired, Gilbert Arenas drilled a mid-range jumper — after the game, he said “I knew I was going to make it. I shoot those shots every day.” — saving the Wizards from an all-time collapse, and giving Washington a 3-2 series lead. Washington won, 112-110.
Top players: Larry Hughes poured in a playoff career-high 33 points, and added nine rebounds and seven assists. Gilbert Arenas finished with just 16 points on 5-for-14 shooting. The Wizards as a team shot lights out, connecting on 56.1 percent from the floor. Ben Gordon led Chicago with 27 points. Jannero Pargo scored 10 points in three minutes off the bench.
After the game: Back in D.C., the Wizards used a fourth quarter comeback to eliminate the Bulls, 94-91. Five Washington players scored in double figures in the win, led by Larry Hughes (21), Gilbert Arenas (19) and Antawn Jamison (19). In the following round, though, the Wizards were waxed by Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and the eventual NBA-Champion Miami Heat in four games. Washington returned to the postseason each of the next three seasons, but never made it out of the first round. Eddie Jordan was eventually fired 11 games into the 2008-09 season.
Check back tomorrow for the Heat.
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