washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > NBA > Index > Wizards

Wizards Get Bulldozed

Chicago's Rookie Nocioni Outshines Arenas in Opener

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 25, 2005; Page D01

CHICAGO, April 24 -- He couldn't get it going, so he tried to force his way through the Chicago Bulls. Washington Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas drove into the lane, lowered his shoulder into Bulls forward Andres Nocioni and was called for an offensive foul. Arenas looked around for the officials with a confused look, held the ball and let out an uncomfortable grin.

Arenas wasn't amused, and he couldn't be. Not when the Bulls completely shut him down and forward Antawn Jamison in the Wizards' first playoff appearance since 1997, a 103-94 loss. And especially not when, in the process of bulldozing Nocioni, the Wizards' leading scorer sent the Bulls' rookie barreling into teammate Kwame Brown's right knee.

The Wizards' Gilbert Arenas has nowhere to turn as the Bulls' Tyson Chandler, left, and Kirk Hinrich come at him from both sides. The point guard shot 3 of 19 with 9 points and 8 assists in Washington's first-round Eastern Conference playoff loss to the Bulls in Chicago. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

_____On Our Site_____
Box score

_____Wizards Basics_____
Wizards Section
_____NBA Basics_____
Team Index
NBA Schedules
NBA Section
_____Bulls Basics_____
Bulls Page

Brown was face down on the floor as chants of "Nocioni! Nocioni!" filled United Center. Brown hobbled off the floor with the assistance of teammates Steve Blake and Laron Profit -- symbolic of the punishing the blow the Wizards absorbed from Nocioni and the Bulls in Game 1 of this best-of-seven series.

This is the same arena where the Michael Jordan-led Bulls started a three-game sweep of the then-Bullets in 1997. The current edition of the Bulls team isn't nearly as daunting, but the Wizards' time in the postseason may also be short-lived if they don't figure out a way to get more of their Big Three -- Arenas, Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison -- going.

Hughes scored a postseason career-high 31 points, carrying the Wizards in the first half with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting. But he was silenced in the second half, limited to 1-for-8 shooting and scoring just seven points. And Arenas and Jamison combined to shoot 9-for-34 in the game. "Those guys are not going to have games like that the whole series," Brown said.

Arenas averaged 30.3 points in three regular season games against the Bulls, but tag team of Chicago guards Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon did not give him any room to shoot or drive. Arenas was 3 for 19 from the field and missed all six of his field goal attempts in the first half, forcing up fadeaway jumpers in frustration and shooting air balls when he had open looks. "I'm not going to be Superman every night," Arenas said.

Jamison had no such success against the Bulls in the regular season as he shot just 33.3 percent (20 of 60). He kept up his poor shooting, making just 1 of 8. He was off target on floaters, runners -- even missed an open layup when Brown found him under the basket.

"Normally, I'm accustomed to maybe one guy [having an off night], but to have both guys?" Jamison said. "We're not worried at all. It was just one game. I'm mad that it happened the first game of the series. We can't continue to play like that if we want to win this series."

The Bulls' rookies were undaunted in their first playoff appearance. Nocioni scored 25 points and grabbed 18 rebounds -- the most by a rookie in a playoff game in NBA history. Rookie of the year candidate Ben Gordon scored 30 points and matched the Wizards' fourth quarter total with 12 points. And Duhon had more rebounds (10) than any player on the Wizards' roster.

The Wizards were outrebounded, 54-44. Brown had a team-high nine rebounds and scored 13 points as a reserve, but in the second half, Brown took only two shots -- and Chandler sent one of them darting into the front row. Brown has a bruised right knee. He said that with ice and rest he should be able to play on Wednesday. "I hope it's not nothing big," Brown said.

Wizards reserve guard Juan Dixon scored 11 points.

The lack of playoff experience showed down the stretch. The Bulls missed six consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter before Nocioni finished off the game with two free throws. The Wizards took a series of poor shots late in the game and appeared content to play one-on-one ball despite a smothering Bulls defense.

Reserve center Etan Thomas had a dunk that gave the Wizards an 84-79 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls scored the next eight points and took a three-point lead when Gordon buried an open three-pointer from the right side of the basket.

The Wizards were down 96-94 when Brendan Haywood had a dunk, but the Wizards didn't score in the final 3 minutes 19 seconds. Nocioni answered with a three-pointer on the other end to give the Bulls a five-point lead. About a minute later, Gordon shot an air ball that bounced right into the hands of Bulls reserve Tyson Chandler, who fed Davis. Davis, the seasoned playoff veteran on the Bulls, dribbled right then sank a funky, running jumper with 1:08 remaining.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company