For Wizards, It's All Good
Offense, Defense Click, Reserves Play Key Role in Rout of Magic in Orlando: Wizards 114, Magic 93
Saturday, January 20, 2007; Page E01
ORLANDO, Jan. 19 -- For once, the Washington Wizards dispensed with late dramatics and put away an opponent the way a playoff contender is supposed to.
On a night when first place in the Southeast Division was on the line, the Wizards played like a team that has more than a division title in mind by dispatching the Orlando Magic, 114-93, in front of a sold-out audience at Amway Arena. Indeed, with Cleveland's 110-99 loss at Denver on Friday, Washington (23-16) moved into a tie for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards didn't require a monster scoring night from Gilbert Arenas, either. In fact, by the time Arenas reached the 30-point mark on a three-pointer from the wing with 4 minutes 33 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the game was well in hand and disappointed Magic fans started heading for the exits.
Arenas, Antawn Jamison (31 points) and Caron Butler combined to score 82 points, and Jamison finished with a season-high 16 rebounds. But the Wizards received contributions from the entire lineup. Their reserves chipped in with 22 points and made several timely plays at both ends of the court.
The Wizards forced 19 turnovers and converted them into 29 points. They also held a 50-38 rebounding advantage, a 26-11 edge in fast-break points and made 9 of 18 three-point attempts. The win snapped a four-game road losing streak and was Washington's largest margin of victory on the road all season.
Coach Eddie Jordan "said it the best at shoot-around today," said Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson, who played 2 1/2 seasons with Orlando. "He asked Gilbert, 'Did Orlando make the playoffs the last two years?' And he said, 'No.' Then he asked, 'Did we make the playoffs the last two years?' And he said, 'Yes.' We said, 'Let's make this a playoff game,' and that's what we did. We sent a message tonight."
The Wizards improved to 2-1 against the Magic this season and won in Orlando for only the second time in their last 11 visits. They moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Magic in the division, which will take on a new feel when Miami's Shaquille O'Neal returns from a knee injury that has kept him sidelined for 32 games. O'Neal could play Sunday.
For now, the division belongs to the Wizards, who have won three straight and will try to carry that momentum into Saturday night's game against the struggling Boston Celtics at Verizon Center, where the Wizards have won nine in a row.
Orlando (22-18) has a talented young player in center Dwight Howard and nice pieces such as Grant Hill and Jameer Nelson, but the Magic leads the NBA in turnovers, and its inability to take care of the basketball hurt Orlando again Friday night.
After a tight first half, the Wizards outscored the Magic 33-14 during a stretch that covered the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. They did it by repeatedly knocking the ball loose at the defensive end before racing the other way for a high percentage shot.
Howard made 8 of 9 shots and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but committed four turnovers. He attempted only two shots and grabbed no rebounds in the fourth quarter.
"I think doubling Dwight in the second half confused him," Arenas said.
After Orlando's 18th turnover, Jamison finished a fast break with a reverse layup, giving the Wizards a 93-80 lead with 8:53 remaining. Moments later, after Arenas made a three-pointer from the wing, the Wizards collapsed on Howard and forced another turnover. Antonio Daniels turned that miscue into a 16-point lead by making a floater in the lane.
Arenas, who made 10 of 20 shots and added seven rebounds and six assists, scored the final points of the first half by driving the length of the court and making a layup in traffic, tying the game at 45. It was the 12th time this season Arenas scored with three or fewer seconds remaining in a quarter, half or game.
Hill scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, but left the game with a dislocated pinkie finger with 3:27 remaining.
The Wizards outscored the Magic 69-48 and made 21 of 25 free throws in the second half after failing to attempt a free throw in the first half.
"I think it was a very disappointing loss for our team tonight," Magic Coach Brian Hill said. "I think we should be embarrassed by the way we played in the second half. I thought we were totally out-worked and out-hustled in every aspect of the game, every player on the floor."