- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

The crowd rose to its feet in pregame introductions and let it be known that it was in a feisty mood last night.

The throng then filled the den on Fun Street with waves of noise intended to sway the action in favor of the home team.

Consider it a job well done by the crowd, as the Wizards jumped on the Bulls at the outset in a game that was reminiscent of the last regular-season meeting between the two teams.

It was over in a hurry, with little resistance coming from the visiting team.

The Bulls came out in an awful funk, unable to complete the most perfunctory assignments. The Wizards went up 12-2, and Bulls coach Scott Skiles called a timeout at the 8:51 mark to stem the assault.

It did not help. As unnerved as the Bulls looked at times in Game 3 on Saturday, their shaky manner was more pronounced in Game 4.

The Bulls could not shoot the ball with consistency. They could not take care of the ball. They could not do much of anything, except watch the Wizards put the game away in the first 24 minutes — something that rarely happens in the NBA playoffs.

Juan Dixon came out of his horrific shooting slump and no doubt contributed to the sense of resignation in the Bulls.

Dixon hit his first four field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, and had 16 points in the first half.

The Bulls came into Game 4 knowing they could not absorb another big hit from one of the bench players of the Wizards, not with Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison already stressing their defense.

The Bulls insisted they would not allow another backup to hurt them the way Etan Thomas did in Game 3. But just as Thomas was a sidebar to Game 3, Dixon was the sidebar to this one.

Next to Kwame Brown, who was not in the house because of a “stomach virus,” Dixon probably was the last player the crowd wanted to see in the game. Dixon was 8-for-34 shooting in the first three games. But Dixon persevered and put his stamp on Game 4, which is something the missing Brown could learn.

A “stomach virus” was one of the persistent questions wafting in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood, especially after Brown played a season-low four minutes in Game 3.

More and more, Brown appears to be clamoring for a new start in a city that will not connect him to Michael Jordan and being the No. 1 pick overall in the 2001 NBA Draft.

As “sick” as Brown was, he could not even watch the game from the locker room.

“We will wait for a phone call [today],” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “I wasn’t there when he got sick, so I don’t know.”

To put it another way, you might not see Brown in Chicago.

Brown could be in an intensive-care unit by then.

It was not as if Brown was missed from the proceedings.

The Wizards smacked the Bulls with a blunt instrument to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

The series now has dissolved into a best-of-three series, with the Bulls having the homecourt advantage.

So far, neither team has shown a capacity to play on the road in a playoff atmosphere.

The Wizards were in a fairly enviable position in Game 1, as they were nursing a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Wizards turned glassy-eyed down the stretch and lost a good opportunity to cast this series in a different light.

All the Wizards and Bulls have shown so far is an ability to win at home against the other.

In seven meetings between the two teams this season, counting three in the regular season, the home team has prevailed on all seven occasions.

That trend has to change if the Wizards are to advance to the next round.

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