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Wizards Win One With Guts

Short-Handed Team Sweeps the Lakers : Wizards 95, Lakers 81

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page D01

When forward Antawn Jamison's night was over before the end of the first quarter, the Washington Wizards didn't pout; their big men simply filled in the best way they could. When the Los Angeles Lakers cut the Wizards' 19-point second-half lead to nine in the fourth quarter, they didn't cower; they retaliated with a run. When point guard Gilbert Arenas's left knee became too sore to ignore, he didn't sit; he continued to push.

The Wizards, still short-handed and banged up, didn't make any excuses last night. Instead, they played their most complete game since the all-star break and defeated the Lakers, 95-81, before a sellout crowd at MCI Center. In winning just their fourth game in the past 12 contests, the Wizards swept the season series against the Lakers for the first time in franchise history.

Steve Blake splits the defense Monday night at a sold out MCI Center. Despite being plagued by injuries, the Wizards handle the Lakers, 95-81. (Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)

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Wizards reserve guard Jarvis Hayes said yesterday his fractured right patella could keep him out the remainder of the season. "Yeah. It's always a possibility," said Hayes, who added that with 21 games remaining he still has time to come back. "I want to be back before the regular season is out. If it's meant to be, that's more than enough time."

Hayes, who injured himself against the Kings about two weeks ago, still hasn't begun to run on his leg. After the Wizards' 95-81 win against the Lakers, Coach Eddie Jordan said: "Jarvis will be out until who knows when. Maybe the playoffs, maybe not coming back at all. Who knows?" . . .

Forward Kwame Brown is resigned to believing his right foot won't heal completely before the season ends. "It's not going to be healthy this year," said Brown, who tweaked his right ankle in the Wizards' win against Charlotte on March 5. "It's going to take the summer rehab and summer work. Rest is going to help it a lot. Some days it feels good, and some days, to be able to play, I have to put so much tape on it. I'm at the point now, where you just have to play and play it out."

Jordan was asked if Brown would have remained in the starting lineup if he stayed healthy. "I don't know. That's a big if," Jordan said. "I like the way Jared [ Jeffries] is playing, and right now, Jared is the starting forward." . . .

Jordan said the loss of Hayes and Juan Dixon (right ankle) has impacted the amount of time that the Wizards implement the Princeton offense. "With the missing guys, we don't have the perimeter shooting," Jordan said. In their two losses against New York and Boston, the Wizards had more turnovers (27) than assists (23), while Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes combined to take 54 percent (87 of 161) of the field goal attempts.

-- Michael Lee

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"We talked about it. You really care about trying to accomplish what we're trying to accomplish. That is the way we have to play," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "When we talked about the proverbial step-up, everyone has to step up, and that's what happened tonight."

Guard Larry Hughes and Arenas led the Wizards (34-27) with 21 points apiece. Hughes also had 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and combined with Jared Jeffries to hold Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, the league's second-leading scorer, to 18 points -- more than 10 points below his season average. Arenas helped establish order in the fourth quarter, when he answered a Lakers run with five consecutive points. "Those guys are the engines that drive us," Jordan said of Arenas and Hughes.

But they wouldn't have done it without some help. Center Brendan Haywood and forwardsJeffries, Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas combined to score 42 points on 16-of-23 shooting. "With Antawn out, those guys played well. Antawn was holding them back all year," Jordan said in jest.

Jordan had to keep the mood light, because Jamison's right knee tendinitis may keep him out for a while. After Jamison labored for 36 minutes the night before in Boston, Jordan said he would play his all-star forward "as long as he can stand it." Last night, Jamison couldn't make it more than eight minutes without pulling up lame. Jamison had two points and two assists, moving around the court in pain. "He's trying to gut it out," Jordan said, "and when he feels he can give it another go, we will let him go."

Haywood scored 16 points, finishing in double figures for the seventh time in eight games, and was 7 of 7 from the floor, punctuating the victory after he leaped over the back of teammate Brown for an emphatic two-handed dunk with 3 minutes 17 seconds remaining. Jeffries had nine points and nine rebounds.

Brown had 11 rebounds and nine points but felt he could have had a double-double if Haywood hadn't leapfrogged him for that dunk. "He came and bumped me out of the way, that's how selfish he is," Brown said, laughing. "He could've let his boy get a little dunk, but it's all good." Said Haywood: "He said I stole his rebound. He obviously wasn't high enough if I got it."

Bryant was 6 of 22 and missed seven consecutive shots in the second half for the Lakers (32-30), who dropped into a tie with Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Still, Lakers forward Caron Butler (20 points, 11 rebounds) brought the Lakers within 83-74 when he made a three-pointer from the right corner. Arenas answered with a short jumper and a three-pointer to give the Wizards an 88-74 lead. After hitting the shot, Arenas confidently walked toward his bench while staring at the Lakers as the home crowd roared.

"I was trying to rest my knee. Once it got close, I just decided to go," Arenas said. "We've been without players, we've got to keep going. We've got to play harder. We have to keep the train rolling."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company