When referee Luis Grillo tossed Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan from last night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it didn’t matter that both went to Archbishop Carroll High School in the District.
It didn’t even matter that yesterday morning Grillo and Juan Dixon ate a huge breakfast together.
But what did matter was that the Wizards recognized Jordan was there to fight for his team, so they responded with some fight of their own by scoring 63 points in the second half en route to a crucial 119-111 victory over the Cavaliers before 20,173 at MCI Center.
“Now that’s funny,” Washington point guard Gilbert Arenas said when he was told Grillo went to the same high school as his coach. “But [Jordan] was fighting for us.”
Although the Wizards (44-35) clinched their first playoff berth since 1997 this week, Jordan didn’t think his team would need any additional motivation to continue fighting for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
Though they still trail the fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls by one game, the Wizards moved ahead of Indiana, which lost to Philadelphia 90-86 last night.
And even though Jordan was forced to watch the end of the game in the locker room, he allowed that last night’s victory had its humorous side — after venting about Grillo tossing him.
“I thought that LeBron [James] was getting a lot of touch fouls getting to the basket,” Jordan said with a smile. “If they were fouls, then Gilbert deserved to get some fouls going to the basket as well as Larry [Hughes] and Antawn [Jamison]. I didn’t see that happening, so I let it be known. I certainly didn’t want to get tossed.”
Arenas (33 points) and Hughes (31 points) topped 30 in the same game for the fifth time this season.
James led Cleveland with 38 points, six assists and six rebounds. But in the fourth quarter, his 10 points were not enough to help the fast-fading Cavaliers (40-39), especially not with Hughes making his first five shots and scoring 16 in the final quarter.
This was especially important because Hughes was guarded by feisty defender Eric Snow for most of the night.
“They were good looks,” Jordan said. “Larry will get into a mode of taking some tough shots that I probably don’t agree with. But [assistant coach Mike O’Koren] called some good sets in the fourth quarter that got our guards open.”
On a night when the Wizards connected on 59 percent of their shots (46-for-78), five players finished in double figures. Jamison scored 21 points, Brendan Haywood had 10 points and eight rebounds and Dixon came off the bench to score 10 of his 11 points in the second half.
Dixon said the Wizards, who finish their regular-season home schedule tomorrow against Charlotte, are regaining the type of confidence they had earlier in the season, when they were simply outscoring opponents. And after having scored at least 106 points in three of their last four games, three of which were victories, that confidence is understandable.
“We are getting in the flow,” Dixon said. “Our goal is to have some momentum going into the playoffs, and right now we are heading in the right direction. We’ve got three games left, and it would be nice if we could run the table.”