If the sight of New Jersey Nets point guard Jason Kidd tossing alley-oop lobs to Vince Carter was enough to make fans at MCI Center take a second look, the Washington Wizards countered with several startling images of their own in the fourth quarter of a 112-88 victory last night.
There was point guard Gilbert Arenas rubbing reserve forward Jarvis Hayes's smooth head after Hayes buried the Wizards' franchise record 14th three-pointer late in the period. There was usually reserved Coach Eddie Jordan pumping his fists and shaking his hips after center Brendan Haywood hit a left-handed jump hook in the lane. There was guard Larry Hughes hitting a tough, hanging jumper over Carter to trigger an 18-0 run to end the game, turning a tight contest into a romp.
Larry Hughes sails in for two of his 33 points over Jason Kidd during second half.
(Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
_____ Who's the Man? _____
Note: This is an unscientific survey of washingtonpost.com readers.
"It was one of our most impressive wins of the season," Jordan said after the Wizards (17-13) won their second in row and beat the Nets for the third time this season. The Wizards will face the Nets again in April, but they won the season series against the Nets for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
Hughes led four Wizards in double figures and matched his season high with 33 points and added seven assists. Arenas scored 20 with six rebounds and four steals, Hayes had 19 points and forward Antawn Jamison recorded his 13th double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wizards shot 14 for 27 (51.9 percent) from beyond the three-point line. The team's previous record was 12 three-pointers, which was set on Nov. 5, 2003, against Dallas. Last night, seven players scored from long distance, including reserve point guard Steve Blake, who scored two before leaving the game in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle.
"It's good to see the kind of team we can be when we're clicking," Jamison said.
When Kidd hit a turnaround jumper with 7 minutes 19 seconds left in the third quarter, the Wizards trailed 64-53. Hayes hit a three-pointer and got the Wizards started on a 59-24 run to close the game.
"This game was a long time coming for me," said Hayes, who has been struggling with a sprained right thumb, but hit 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. "I found my rhythm tonight. I've got to keep it."
Arenas scored 13 consecutive points for the Wizards in the final 4:25 of the third quarter and they led by four points entering the fourth quarter. Arenas had shot 2 of 7 in the first half and said he lost his confidence when he hit the side of the backboard with one three-point attempt.
"I was at the point, where I was like, 'I'm not going to shoot no more the rest of the night.' I hit the side of the backboard," Arenas explained. "If I shot another one, it might look bad again."
Arenas didn't attempt a shot in the second half until he hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 65. He hit another from about 30 feet to give the Wizards a 73-72 lead with 1:43 left in the period and they never trailed again. "He went on a run all by himself and got us the momentum to take us into the fourth," Hughes said.
Hughes scored at least 30 points for the fifth time this season and the third time in the past four games. "I'm trying to bring it every night," Hughes said. "I'm trying to do everything possible out there on the court to help this team win."
Hughes had five steals as the Wizards forced 22 turnovers -- which they converted into 31 points. They are 15-3 this season when they force more turnovers than their opponents. "We know we're going to make shots," Arenas said. "We've just got to defend. If we defend, we know each and every night we're going to be in the basketball game."
Although the result was similar, this wasn't the same Nets team the Wizards defeated by double digits in their first two matchups. With Kidd (19 points, seven assists) returning from offseason knee surgery and the acquisition of swingman Carter last month, giving Kidd another option for alley-oop dunks, the Nets (11-19) have a different look.
Carter, who scored a season-high 31 points, tried to keep the Nets in the game, sinking a three-pointer to bring them within 94-88 with 5:37 left. Then, Hughes answered with a three-point play and found Jamison cutting toward the basket for a layup in the lane. And, when Haywood hit his hook shot, Jordan couldn't contain himself.
"We know we have a good team and we'll accept any challenge," Hughes said. "That's how we play. We feed off each other, and we always want to send a message in our gym."