While watching the past two games on television from home, Larry Hughes said he didn't recognize the Washington Wizards team that scored a season-low 73 points against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday or the squad that allowed an NBA season-high 137 points against the Dallas Mavericks the next night. "It wasn't the same team that I've been on," Hughes said before the Wizards played the Toronto Raptors last night. "It was really tough."
Hughes sat on the Wizards' bench and saw a team that looked more like the unit that won seven in a row before he fractured his right thumb against the Phoenix Suns last week. In their third game without Hughes, the Wizards helped erase the memories of being stomped in Texas with a 118-109 win against the Raptors before 15,424 at MCI Center.
Gilbert Arenas (23 points) sails over Chris Bosh to lead a balanced effort and help the Wizards end a two-game losing streak.
(Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
"It was never any kind of uncertainty when Larry went down," forward Antawn Jamison said. "We just didn't play well in Texas. That's all. Tonight we got back to what we do."
Jamison and reserve guard Juan Dixon both had 26 points for the Wizards (23-15), who had six players score in double figures and jumped out a 29-point first-half lead. Jamison had his 16th double-double of the season with 13 rebounds. He had 10 points and eight assists in the first quarter, after which the Wizards led 35-20. "I really wanted to come out and not just score but defensively and with rebounding, set a tone," Jamison said.
With the highest-scoring trio of teammates in the league reduced to a 20-point scoring duo in point guard Gilbert Arenas and Jamison, Coach Eddie Jordan didn't ask for one man to replace to Hughes, the Wizards' second-leading scorer and the league leader in steals, who will be out for the next three to five weeks. "Coach told us when Larry went down that everybody has to step their game up, whether it be points or rebounds or on the defensive end," said Jarvis Hayes, who hit six of his first seven shots and scored 16 points with eight rebounds in his first start at shooting guard.
Dixon, who was pushed back to the bench in favor of Hayes, didn't have any problem providing energy for the second unit as he scored in double figures for the fifth consecutive game. Dixon shot 11 of 16 and added five assists. "That's my job," Dixon said. "I would like to start -- don't get me wrong -- but I think it's best for the team with me coming off the bench."
Center Brendan Haywood scored 12 points with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks but the game should have been considered a lock after forward Jared Jeffries finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. The Wizards are 9-0 this season when Jeffries scores 10 or more points.
They are also 4-0 when six or more players score in double figures, with wins coming against Seattle, Charlotte and in Atlanta. The Wizards improved to 4-1 when all five starters score in double figures. "We're never going to fully imitate what Larry brings, so we just have to focus on doing what we can do," Arenas said after scoring 23 points -- shooting 17 of 20 from the foul line -- with eight assists. "Everybody responded."
The Raptors (17-24) had won three in a row and eight of their past 10. But they are 3-19 on the road. Reserve swingman Jalen Rose played the entire second half and scored 23 of his season-high and game-high 32 points. Rose hit a three-pointer with 9 minutes 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 95-84, but the Wizards were able to restore order when Dixon hit a three-pointer to give the Wizards a 102-86 lead about three minutes later.
Raptors point guard Rafer Alston had 20 points and 7 assists, forward Morris Peterson had 18 points and Chris Bosh had 16 points and eight rebounds, but Bosh's double-double streak ended at nine.
The Wizards were playing against a Raptors team that doesn't compare to San Antonio or Dallas and has a much different look since trading Vince Carter last month. But it didn't matter since the Wizards desperately needed a win with two tough road games ahead. They will face the Indiana Pacers tonight, then travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on Monday. Hughes "gave us a speech and told us we needed to get back on our feet," Arenas said. "We can sit here and sulk. Sulk won't give you any wins."