- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

CHICAGO [-] Eddie Jordan thought he had reasons to be nervous heading into his first game as coach of the Washington Wizards. After all, he had one of the youngest teams in the NBA and one that struggled for much of the preseason.

So much for opening night nerves.

Even with leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse sidelined recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, the Wizards crushed the Chicago Bulls 99-74 at United Center.

Washington cruised in front of 18,127 spectators, most of whom were out of the building when reserve center Etan Thomas’ free throws gave the Wizards a 90-64 lead with more than three minutes to play.

The loss spoiled the homecoming of Scottie Pippen, who is back in a Bulls uniform for the first time since the team won the 1998 NBA title. Fans gave Pippen a long, loud standing ovation when he was introduced but that’s where the highlights ended for the home crowd.

Defense was the key to the Wizards’ romp, a fact that was lost on no one.

“We played together,” Jordan said. “We didn’t look overly jittery, although we had some [jitters]. But the Bulls did miss a lot of open shots.”

Of course, the Wizards deserved some of the credit for that.

“We played tough defense tonight,” said Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards’ point guard. “Even if we didn’t get the offense down, we got after loose balls, we dug in and we played hard. And everyone made shots tonight.”

No argument there. Washington connected on a whopping 48.7 percent of its field goals (37-for-76).

The Wizards got solid efforts from just about everyone.

The starting backcourt of Larry Hughes and Arenas dominated the game. Hughes led all scorers with 20 points and added five assists. Arenas finished with 18 points, six assists and four rebounds.

The Wizards also got good production from the bench, with Thomas continuing his good play from the preseason to finish with 13 points and 13 rebounds. All told, six Washington players scored in double figures.

Washington committed 18 turnovers [-] three less than its bothersome average for eight preseason games [-] but that didn’t particularly matter because the Bulls were absolutely horrendous shooting from the floor (31.7 percent) and the free throw line (19-for-31).

Jalen Rose led the Bulls with 15 points, and backcourt mate Jamal Crawford added 12. However, they made 10 of 31 shots from the field.

Arenas, signed away from Golden State after being named the NBA’s most improved player last season, had eight points in the first quarter as Washington quickly took charge. The Bulls never led after Washington center Brendan Haywood sank an awkward layup that tied the score at 7. The Wizards went ahead to stay on Hughes’ layup on their next possession.

There had been talk that this is the year the Bulls [-] out of the playoffs since 1998 [-] start to right what has been one of the league’s most wayward ships.

However, their play for most of the night gave no indication of success in the near future. This point was hammered home when the Wizards opened the fourth quarter with a 10-3 run that put them ahead 79-60, forced the Bulls to call time out and inspired many of Chicago’s disgusted fans to unleash a serenade of boos as they headed for the exits.

The Wizards used a 13-2 run midway through the first quarter to go ahead 20-11 with more than three minutes remaining.

Chicago, which seemed insistent early on to get the ball inside to center Eddie Curry, opened by shooting a shade under 28 percent from the floor. The Bulls never got any better in the first half as they arrived at halftime making 11 of 39 shots.

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