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Ball Keeps Bouncing Wizards' Way

Late Breaks Help Washington Finish Sweep of Homestand: Wizards 94, Clippers 91

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 12, 2005; Page D01

If the Washington Wizards had any doubt that the stars weren't aligned in their favor this season, it may have been put to rest in the final minute of their 94-91 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers last night at MCI Center.

How else do you explain it when forward Antawn Jamison's first two attempts from beyond the three-point line drew nothing but air, but he swished the decisive three-pointer with 46 seconds left? Or when the Wizards held a two-point lead in the final 10 seconds and point guard Gilbert Arenas drove left, dribbled the ball off his foot -- and it squirted to teammate Jarvis Hayes in the corner before it scooted out of bounds?

Jarvis Hayes (13 points) beats Marko Jaric to the ball. The Wizards have won 12 of their past 14 at MCI Center. (Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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With last night's victory, the Wizards reached 30 wins before the all-star break for the sixth time in their history. They also did it in 1969, 1970, 1973, 1977 and 1979.

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What about when the Wizards needed an offensive rebound with less than five seconds remaining and Clippers point guard Rick Brunson grabbed it but his momentum -- or maybe a slight nudge from forward Etan Thomas -- forced Brunson out of bounds with the ball?

"I guess it was meant to be," Hayes said.

The Wizards (30-19) concluded their homestand with their fourth consecutive victory; they have won 12 of their past 14 games at home. Arenas led four players in double figures with 35 points and added nine assists for the Wizards. "Another great win, another game where we fought tooth and nail until the end," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "We just have a way about us, a winning way."

The Wizards have won six of the past seven against the Clippers (23-27), who were playing the fifth game of a nine-game road trip. They have not lost to the Clippers at home since Dec. 6, 2000. But the game was tied at 90 when former Wizard Bobby Simmons (a team-high 24 points) hit two free throws with 59 seconds left.

During the timeout, Jordan drew up a play designed for Jamison, feeling that the Clippers would focus on Arenas, who had scored 14 points in the period. Center Brendan Haywood (13 points, nine rebounds) told Jamison, "You're going to be wide open."

Arenas grabbed the ball, drove inside and when Haywood rolled, Jamison popped out to the top of the key, where he drained a three-pointer. Jamison ran down the court, shaking his head and smiling as he screamed toward the bench: "There was no doubt. There was no doubt."

"I was due for one," Jamison said after scoring 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds. "It might not be going some games, but I find a way to hit the next shot. No matter how I play for what, 47 minutes, that last minute, if you need me, I'm going to get it done."

After Simmons hit one of two free throws to cut the Wizards' lead to 93-91, Arenas dribbled to his left, off of his shoe and the ball bounced right to Hayes (13 points) in the corner. Hayes drove inside, kicked the ball out to Arenas, who missed a long jumper. The ball bounced off the side of the rim and Thomas and Brunson chased it down. Brunson grabbed it and fell out of bounds. "Hey, we were both going for the ball. That was it," Thomas said. "It was off him, but I guess he thought I pushed him or something, but I don't know."

"He pushed him," joked rookie Peter John Ramos, whose locker is next to Thomas's.

Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy thought Thomas fouled Brunson and was given two technical fouls and ejected from the game. "I don't know what [the official] saw, but I know what I felt," Brunson said after dishing out 13 assists. "He pushed me in the back, but I don't have a whistle."

Arenas then hit the technical foul shot, and missed a long jumper from the corner as time expired. "You can't win them all pretty," said Arenas, who scored at least 30 points for the 14th time this season. "Sometimes you have to gut it out, and we did. But I've already forgotten about it because we have another one" today.

They will begin a three-game road trip tonight in Detroit against the Pistons, who have already defeated the Wizards twice this season.

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