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Hughes's Heroics Lift the Wizards

Last-Second Layup Runs Streak to Six: Wizards 105, Bucks 103

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2005; Page D01

MILWAUKEE, Jan. 14 -- The Washington Wizards were tied with the Milwaukee Bucks in the closing seconds when guard Larry Hughes slowly dribbled the ball left to right, between his legs, and left to right again. Hughes glared at his defender, Bucks forward Desmond Mason, then glanced at the clock as the final seconds ticked off, and continued to dribble. "I looked up at the clock at four -- and just took off," Hughes said. Mason "didn't know which way I was going and once I took off, I saw his feet cross back. So, I just kept going."

Hughes kept going until he sank a layup off the backboard with seven-tenths of a second remaining to give his team a 105-103 win at Bradley Center.

Antawn Jamison, shooting over Milwaukee's Desmond Mason, helps the Wizards improve to 21-13. (Morry Gash - AP)

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Once Bucks guard Michael Redd's desperation heave soared out of bounds, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan lifted his arms into the air, ran to center court and embraced Hughes, who scored a game-high 23 points and helped the Wizards come back from an eight-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to win their sixth game in a row.

The Wizards (21-13) snapped a three-game losing streak against the Bucks. Forward Antawn Jamison scored 22 points and Gilbert Arenas had 20 for the Wizards, who recorded their eighth road win of the season, matching their season total from last season -- when the team was 8-33 away from MCI Center.

"We're a completely different team from last year. We have a different attitude . . . and we're having fun, that's most important," said guard Juan Dixon, who came off the bench to score 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Dixon calmly sank two free throws to give the Wizards a 103-100 lead with 21 seconds left. But the Bucks tied the game three seconds later when Redd (20 points) drained a three-pointer from well beyond the arc with Hughes in his face. "He shot that deep," said Hughes, who also had eight assists and five steals.

After a timeout, Hughes inbounded the ball to Jamison, who flipped it back to Hughes and got out of the way. The Wizards wanted to "make sure that [the Bucks] didn't get a shot. And Larry executed it perfectly," Jordan said of the final shot. "We've got special guys on this team. They've got a winning attitude, a killer instinct."

The Bucks (12-22) have lost three in a row and are last in the Central Division, but they led 95-87 with 5 minutes 11 seconds left. The Wizards responded with a 12-0 run in less than four minutes. Hughes scored five points during the run, then tied the game at 95 with a driving layup. "We don't worry," Hughes said. "We knew we still had time to get a couple of stops, get a couple of buckets."

Jamison gave the Wizards a 97-95 lead when he stepped in front of Bucks reserve Marcus Fizer, slapped the ball away and hit two free throws with 2:11 left. "When he caught it, I think he wanted to drive and he kept hearing guys calling him. I just was able to make a good read," said Jamison, who added four steals. The Wizards took a four-point lead when Dixon made a long jumper just inside the three-point line.

"By now, the opponent should know, if they're not up by 15, don't celebrate," Arenas said. "The last six minutes is when we dig down deep. We get smart. We figure out how to make plays happen."

The Wizards have the franchise's best record after 34 games since the 1978-79 season, when the Washington Bullets were 23-11. They return home tonight to face Phoenix Suns, who own the best record in the NBA (31-6) and defeated the Wizards, 110-96, in Phoenix on Dec. 18. The Wizards are one of just four Eastern Conference teams with a winning record against Western Conference teams at 7-5. But their next three games are against the Suns, San Antonio and Dallas.

"It's going to be a major test," Jamison said. "We've got some major games against some powerful West Coast teams, teams that are used to making the playoffs. But we've won six in a row. We're hungry. It's a tough task, but I think we're up for the task."

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