- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2006

CHICAGO — Just as things seemed optimistic for the Washington Wizards a little more than one week ago, they are equally dire now.

A 103-101 loss to the Chicago Bulls last night at United Center puts the Wizards in quite the predicament.

The loss featured one of the best clutch shooting performances of the season by the Bulls’ Ben Gordon — who made all nine of his 3-point attempts — and a controversial offensive foul against the Wizards’ Jared Jeffries at the end of the game.

With the loss the Wizards, who have just three games left in the season, fall into a three-way tie with the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks in the race for seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The loss — coming again without injured Caron Butler — extended their losing streak to five games, and matched their season high in losses as well. It drops the Wizards to 39-40 and puts them below the .500 mark for the first time since Feb. 4 when they were 22-23.

What’s worse, of the three teams tied for fifth, the Wizards rank third in the first tiebreaker (head-to-head games). The Bucks, whom they play host to at Verizon Center next week, are 4-2 among the three, the Pacers are 4-4, and the Wizards are 2-4.

This might not have been the case, though, had Jeffries not been called for charge on the Bulls’ Andres Nocioni with 0.4 seconds to play and the Wizards trailing 103-101 after Gordon’s final 3.

On the play, Jeffries, out on the break after a Chicago miss, appeared to take off for a soaring layup from about nine feet away. But he was called for a foul and the Wizards’ fate was sealed.

“I saw him backpedaling and I had a chance to attack, so I attacked and just tried to get to the line” Jeffries said. “I thought that he was out of position but the ref saw it differently. So it’s one of those things where I have to just take it and run with it.”

As controversial as that call was, Gordon’s heroics were even more eye-catching

Gordon pulled the Bulls even at 87-87 when he sank the second of back-to-back 3s with 7:19 remaining in the fourth. And on the Bulls’ next possession Nocioni pushed Chicago ahead 90-87 — their first lead since they were up 30-29 early in the second quarter — with another 3 that forced the Wizards to call timeout with 6:40 to play.

When play resumed, Gordon made another 3-pointer for a 93-87 Bulls lead.

But the Wizards, paced by Gilbert Arenas’ game-high 36 points, battled back and took a 101-100 lead on a Jeffries’ dunk with 1:02 to play.

But Gordon wasn’t finished and nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with 54.1 seconds to play.

“It’s hard to beat a guy who goes 9-for-9 from behind the 3-point line,” Arenas said. “He willed his team to victory. We didn’t realize he was 9-for-9 until we looked at the stat sheet. But he hit big 3s. He hit the one to tie the game. He hit the one that put them up by three, and he hit the one to get the lead back. He hit big shots for them and that’s what he does.”

Gordon’s performance from behind the 3-point line ties the all-time NBA record for most 3s without a miss. Latrell Sprewell was 9-for-9 as a member of the New York Knicks in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 4, 2003.

For the Wizards, Antonio Daniels finished with 20 points and eight assists, Antawn Jamison had 16 points and nine rebounds, Brendan Haywood had 13 points, five blocks and nine rebounds, and Jeffries finished with 13 points and seven rebounds before fouling out .

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