In their first game as a newly minted playoff team, the Washington Wizards received a lesson in what to expect in the postseason: Even people from the old neighborhood won't cut you any slack.
Coach Eddie Jordan found out the hard way when official Luis Grillo -- who grew up just two blocks from Jordan in Southeast and attended the same Archbishop Carroll High School -- tossed Jordan with 2 minutes 14 seconds left in the third quarter of the Wizards' 119-111 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night at MCI Center.
Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas claps with approval as the final seconds tick off of his team's victory over the visiting Cavaliers.
(Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
Jordan certainly earned his second ejection of the season when he became enraged and let out an expletive-filled tirade after point guard Gilbert Arenas drove inside and appeared to get fouled as he sank a layup. The non-call came 13 seconds after Cavaliers swingman LeBron James drew a foul driving the basket and just 30 seconds after forward Antawn Jamison appeared to get fouled on a twisting, floating shot off the glass.
"I thought LeBron was getting a lot of touch fouls going to the basket and if they were fouls, then Gilbert deserved to get those calls, along with Larry [Hughes] and Antawn," Jordan said. "I didn't see that happen, so I made it known. I certainly didn't want to get tossed to fire us up, I wanted to be in the game."
But after he was tossed, Jordan handed over the coaching duties to assistant coach Mike O'Koren and walked off the floor to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd. The Wizards (44-35) used the energy boost from their coach -- and a combined 64 points from back-court mates Arenas and Hughes -- toward their third win a row. Arenas shot 12 of 16 from the floor and scored a team-high 33 points while Hughes had 31 as both players scored at least 30 points in the same game for the fifth time this season. "He was fighting for us, so we had to fight for him," Arenas said of Jordan. "We got this one for him."
And, after Indiana lost to Philadelphia, the Wizards jumped the Pacers for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards remain a game behind the Chicago Bulls for the fourth seed and home-court advantage with three games left. "We're really turning it on at the right time," said Arenas, who added nine assists. "We're getting all of our pieces back and we're showing people what we can do. We're having fun out here. We got through a rough stretch, and we're better for it, and there's no slowing down now."
Two days after clinching the franchise's first playoff berth in eight years, the Wizards tied the 1997 Bullets for the most wins since 1979. Jamison had 21 points and guard Juan Dixon came off the bench to score 11.
"We can't pack it in," Hughes said. "We are still playing to get rhythm going into the postseason. We know we are headed there, so we want to continue to play playoff basketball right now and not come out and have a letdown. We want to come out and win every game."
James tried to single-handedly keep his team's fleeting playoff dreams alive, scoring a game-high 38 points with six rebounds and six assists. The Cavaliers dropped to 6-9 under interim coach Brendan Malone. Barely holding on to the eighth spot, they have just a one-game lead over the ninth-place New Jersey Nets.
James scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, but he was outdueled by Hughes, who hit his first five shots in the period and finished with 16. "Larry took some real good quality shots," Jordan said. "Larry can get in a mode of making tough shots and taking tough shots."
Of course, Jordan wasn't around to see the fourth quarter. After Arenas didn't get a foul call, he cursed Grillo, saying "Call the. . . . foul!" Grillo quickly handed Jordan a technical, but Jordan let the harsh words flow even more. When Jordan charged onto the court, Grillo handed him another technical -- which is an automatic ejection -- but Jordan didn't stop yelling until Jamison stepped in front of Jordan to hold him back. "He went to Carroll, [former Georgetown Coach] John Thompson went Carroll. I went to Carroll. We were all in the building tonight. I left early," Jordan said, shaking his head. "I've known Luis since I was a teenager. He lived about two blocks from me."
Not that that seems to matter. "He gave me my first tech years ago as a head coach in Sacramento and he threw me out tonight," Jordan said. "Nothing personal. I'm sure we'll shake hands. Yeah that jerk."
Then, Jordan laughed. He's headed to playoffs. He can laugh about it now.