DALLAS, Jan. 18 -- Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan referred to this two-game road trip to San Antonio and Dallas as the "Texas Two-Step," but his team was in no mood to dance, much less play, immediately after receiving the news Sunday that guard Larry Hughes fractured his right thumb against Phoenix.
The Wizards have usually found a way to bounce back from embarrassing defeats with competitive efforts, but after scoring a season-low 73 points and absorbing a 28-point loss in San Antonio, the Wizards could not overcome a woeful first half and lost to the Mavericks, 137-120, before 19,693 at American Airlines Center.
Gilbert Arenas scores a career-high 43 points in a 137-120 loss in Dallas.
(Tony Gutierrez - AP)
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In the second game without their second-leading scorer and the league's leader in steals, the Wizards appeared listless as they surrendered a season-high 73 points in the first half against the Mavericks -- and trailed by 37 with 10 minutes 21 seconds left in the third quarter. "They were good and we weren't," Jordan said.
But the Wizards (22-15) finally woke up at that point, outscoring the Mavericks 80-60 for the rest of the game, and cutting the deficit to 11 with 2:26 left. Point guard Gilbert Arenas led the charge as he scored 27 of his career-high 43 points in the second half. "We were fighting for dignity in the second half," said Arenas, who fouled out with 1:24 remaining. "It's hard because you're missing 20 points [from Hughes]. You're missing your defensive leader. It's hard, but we've got to get over it. We've got to suck it up like men."
Arenas rebounded from his 0-for-12, three-point performance in San Antonio and posted his second 40-point game of the season. He found guard Juan Dixon sprinting down court for a layup to cap a 10-0 fourth-quarter run that cut the Mavericks' lead to 123-112. "Out of eight quarters, we played two good quarters and that's what we're going to take from this trip," said Jordan, who smiled for the first time all night after Dixon's layup. "We're going through an adjustment period. Larry Hughes meant so much, but we shouldn't play like that in the first half."
Former Wizards swingman, Jerry Stackhouse, helped thwart the run, when he scored five points in 25 seconds and gave the Mavericks a 20-point lead with 47 seconds left. "We never felt like there was any doubt about the game," Stackhouse said. "Everybody got a little passive when we had the big lead."
Stackhouse scored a season-high 29 points off the bench to lead the Mavericks (24-12), who wore green throwback jerseys to celebrate the franchise's 25th year.
The Mavericks scored an NBA season-high 137 points, shot 57.7 percent (45 of 78) and had four players score at least 20 points. Forward Dirk Nowitzki had 28 points and 11 rebounds, point guard Jason Terry had 26 points and 7 assists, and guard Michael Finley had 25 points. Terry, Finley and Stackhouse combined to hit 11 three-pointers one day after the Wizards allowed the Spurs to shoot 12 of 16 from beyond the three-point line.
"It's funny: The second Larry gets hurt, you feel like defensively, everybody is not on the same page," Dixon said. "We can't play like that. We won seven in a row. If we keep playing like that, we might lose seven in a row."
Forward Antawn Jamison, who scored a season-low six points against the Spurs, bounced back with his 15th double-double of the season, with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Dixon, starting his second game in place of Hughes, did his best imitation with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. The Wizards even brought out their orange throwback Bullets jerseys, but they couldn't find the magic that led to road wins against the Lakers and Warriors.
After the Wizards fell behind 21-2 against the Spurs the night before, Jordan said the first quarter against Dallas would be important for the Wizards. He was right. The Wizards trailed 14-11 when Arenas completed a three-point play with 7:36 left, but the Mavericks closed out the period on a 26-9 run.
The Wizards did nothing to impede the Mavericks' path, leaving Finley, Nowitzki and Stackhouse free to launch jumpers while they stopped and stared. Dixon and forward Jared Jeffries combined to commit seven turnovers in the first period, which led to 13 points. The Mavericks shot 60.9 percent and scored 40 points -- proof that the most apparent hole without Hughes is defense. "Larry means a lot, but not to the point that we give up 40 points in one quarter," Jamison said.