Whether the ending of yesterday’s game was supernatural or just plain lucky, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan didn’t care.
“It’s almost like the basketball gods were looking out after us,” Jordan said following an unpredictable game-winning layup by Antawn Jamison that lifted the Wizards to a thrilling 106-104 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats before 17,117 at MCI Center.
If they were looking down on the Wizards’ matinee, they allowed for a wild finish. As Washington’s Larry Hughes headed upcourt with the score tied, the Bobcats’ Brevin Knight closed in from behind and knocked the ball away. It went to the streaking Jamison, who caught the ball in stride for the awkward-looking game-winner with 1.3 seconds to play.
With their fourth consecutive victory, the Wizards improved to 45-35, the franchise’s most victories since the 1978-79 team went 54-28.
“Once I looked up and saw that we had five seconds and saw Larry dribble the ball, my instincts were to continue to run the lanes and maybe get a tip in or something,” said Jamison, who finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds for his 24th double-double of the season. “It was just one of those things of being in the right place at the right time.”
The Wizards had one timeout remaining when they took possession, but nobody gave any thought to calling it.
“I felt comfortable with it,” Jamison said. “It might have looked unorthodox, but I was comfortable with it all the way.”
Hughes was spectacular again with 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals, while Gilbert Arenas finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
By coming back from an 11-point deficit with a little more than seven minutes remaining, the Wizards won their 13th game this season in which they trailed by double figures. The Wizards finished 29-12 at MCI Center, the franchise’s best home record since the Bullets went 30-11 in 1988-89.
With just two games left in the regular season — games at New Jersey and New York tomorrow and Wednesday — the Wizards trail Chicago (46-34) by one game in the race for the fourth seed and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Indiana, which lost to Miami yesterday, is seeded sixth and trails the Wizards by two games.
“It’s been good to us,” Jordan said of MCI Center. “We have a lot of pride, and we like to take care of our own.”
For a good portion of the afternoon, it looked as if the Bobcats (17-63) might pull off an upset. The first-year team arrived at MCI Center pretty much in the same position the Wizards have been in for the better part of the last three decades, playing out the last few meaningless games of the season.
Making an upset appear even less likely was the fact the Bobcats were without two starters, rookie of the year candidate Emeka Okafor and center Primoz Brezec.
But the Bobcats, with owner Bob Johnson sitting baseline alongside minority owner and rap star Nelly, got a decent effort from everyone who played.
Their shooting percentage (50.6 percent) was much higher than Jordan would have preferred, and as a result six Bobcats — led by reserve Matt Carroll’s career-high 22 points — scored in double figures. Knight finished with 11 points and 13 assists and missed a shot from beyond halfcourt as time expired.