- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

Antonio Davis, who has played 12 years in the NBA and another three in Europe, has just about seen it all. Yesterday afternoon in the first playoff game ever at MCI Center, Davis had seen enough.

After getting whistled for his sixth personal foul, which warrants a trip to the bench and the rest of the day off, the Chicago Bulls forward went bonkers. Davis sprinted directly into the face of official Tony Brothers and drew an immediate ejection that sent him to the dressing room with 5:03 remaining and the Wizards up by 14.

“It was a terrible call,” Davis said. “I let him know it was a terrible call. That’s all it was. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Davis said there was no contact with Brothers, and he denied that his meltdown indicated any frustration with the performance of his team or the officials in the Wizards’ 117-99 victory in Game3 of the Eastern Conference first-round series. Bulls’ big man Tyson Chandler also fouled out but, Davis said, “I wasn’t frustrated by nothing but that call.”

The officials kept a tight grip on the game as whistles punctuated the noise generated by a lathered-up crowd celebrating the franchise’s first playoff win since 1988 and one the Wizards badly needed after losing the first two games. The Bulls were called for 38 fouls to 29 for the Wizards, and Washington took 49 free throws and made 39, which tied their season highs.

“We have been a high foul team, and tonight it cost us,” said a diplomatic Scott Skiles, the Bulls coach.

Addressing the number of fouls, Chicago center Othella Harrington said, “It was definitely difficult to get a rhythm.”

One of the casualties of frequent fouling was Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, who took his fourth foul to the bench with 8:09 left in the third quarter and the Wizards up by two. At that precise moment, the Wizards began to pull away to a 90-77 lead after three quarters.

Andres Nocioni, the Argentine forward who had 25 points and 18 rebounds for the Bulls in their Game1 win, took a hard foul from Larry Hughes and spent several minutes on the bench. That didn’t help either.

“I don’t know how many minutes I played, but it definitely wasn’t as many as I wanted to — that’s for sure,” Hinrich said.

Hinrich played 27 minutes, about nine fewer than his season average. He scored 13 points, compared with his 34-point outburst in the Bulls’ Game2 victory Wednesday.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “You question calls, but we have to look at ourselves. We didn’t do what it takes to win the game.”

Which is to play with dogged intensity and stop the opposition. The Bulls led the league in field goal percentage defense and kept the Wizards under control in the first two games. But with guards Gilbert Arenas and Hughes combining for 53 points, and the frontcourt, led by Etan Thomas’ 20 points in 23 minutes, causing problems inside, the Bulls yielded their second-highest point total of the season.

Not only did the Wizards take advantage of their free throws, they hustled for 21 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points.

“I thought even though we had it close at halftime [the Wizards led, 57-55], they pretty much outplayed us beginning to end,” Skiles said. “They were after loose balls. They were all over the glass with multiple efforts. They deserved to win.”

Said Hinrich: “Obviously, the foul trouble hurt, but we just couldn’t stop them. For a team like us that relies so much on our defense, it hurts when you can’t stop a team. We weren’t making the second and third efforts. We weren’t helping each other like we normally do. For us to win, we have to play good defense. That’s our M.O. as a team. We had a setback, and we have to get back to that Monday if we want to win.”

The Bulls compounded their troubles by shooting 39.3 percent from the field. Rookie guard sensation Ben Gordon made just two of nine shots but said a bad cold that bothered him earlier in the week had nothing to do with it.

“I think I just had a poor game,” he said. “It happens sometimes. Players aren’t able to perform the way they want to every night.”

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