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Wizards Hang On In Orlando

Magic Rallies, but Can't Prevent 4th Straight Win: Wizards 111, Magic 102

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 2, 2005; Page D01

ORLANDO, April 1 -- Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan wanted to give his fatigued starters some rest and Friday night appeared to be a perfect opportunity, as his team scored 38 points in the third quarter and led the Orlando Magic by 24 points entering the final period.

With back-court mates Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes excelling on offense, center Etan Thomas dunking at will and the team playing at a high level, the game looked more lopsided than the score.

Larry Hughes (30 points, 9 rebounds) tries to get around Orlando's DeShawn Stevenson. Wizards won their third consecutive road game. (Fernando Medina -- Getty Images)

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"I felt like we were down 50 the whole game," Magic guard Steve Francis said about the Wizards' 111-102 victory at TD Waterhouse Center.

However, things got a bit shaky as the Magic scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to move within 14. It got a bit scary when Hughes hit the floor and held his left elbow in agony before heading to the locker room. And then DeShawn Stevenson made a reverse layup to bring the Magic within five with 4 minutes 20 seconds left. But the Wizards withstood the run and eight fourth-quarter turnovers to defeat the Magic.

The Wizards (41-30), who won their fourth in a row, remained one game ahead of the Chicago Bulls for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and gave Jordan his 99th career victory.

Arenas scored 31 points and Hughes returned from a sprained left elbow to finish with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists as the Wizards won their third consecutive road game for the first time this season and ended a six-game losing streak in Orlando.

Rookie Dwight Howard scored 22 points and added 11 rebounds to lead the Magic (34-38), which went on a 23-4 run in the fourth quarter before Arenas scored five straight points. The Magic has lost 11 of its last 14 games.

The Wizards improved to 7-4 this season without all-star forward Antawn Jamison, who is expected to return next week.

"Things are going our way and we're making our own breaks," Jordan said. "We've got a lot of confident guys and they're on a mission. It's almost like a covenant that they've made among each other that we're going to close this season on a real high note."

The Wizards led 93-69 entering the final period, but the Magic scored the first 10 points. Hughes ended a near-four-minute scoring drought when he made a baseline jumper with 7:27 remaining. Hughes hit another jumper from the same spot, but the Magic intensified its full-court pressure defense and scored the next 13 points.

After Stevenson converted a fast-break dunk to bring his team within seven, Hughes split a triple team and barely crossed half court when Stacey Augmon pushed him on his side with 4:35 left.

"My elbow hit the floor and it didn't slide," Hughes said. "It'll probably be a little sore tomorrow."

Hughes fell and rolled over in agony, holding his left elbow, then left for the locker room with team trainer Eric Waters. Jared Jeffries threw the ball away and the Magic got within 97-92 when Stevenson (19 points) made a reverse layup.

Asked what he was thinking, Arenas said: "Nothing. Give me the ball. I'll make something happen."

Arenas quieted the crowd when he made a running 12-foot jumper in the lane. Then, with Augmon defending, Arenas dribbled down the clock, stopped and made a three-pointer to give the Wizards a 10-point lead.

"That's what I do," Arenas said. "It's hard to keep a 20-point lead the whole game. We thought they gave up. Just when we thought they gave up, they decided to come full force."

Hughes returned to the game about 90 seconds later and immediately grabbed a rebound. Thomas sank two free throws to give the Wizards a 104-92 lead.

"Going into the fourth, we said that if we don't turn the ball over and don't allow them offensive rebounds, we will be fine. It didn't happen. So, that's why it was a struggle," Jordan said. "It wasn't pretty at the end, but it was pretty for three quarters. The 'W' is a lot prettier than anything."

Thomas had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and reserve Damone Brown had 11 points for the Wizards.

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