If the Washington Wizards have been consistent with anything five games into the season, it's that they don't play their best basketball until the game is half over. The Wizards are averaging 102.2 points per game -- fifth-best in the league -- but more of those points have come in the second half (56.8), a trend that is both encouraging and troubling.
The Wizards (3-2) haven't scored fewer than 54 points in the second half of a game this season. Coach Eddie Jordan said the second half surges may be the result of his players realizing "it's winning time" -- or youth (the team's average age is 25.2). "We have a young team; we don't wear down," Jordan said. "We have young legs, they're energetic and we have a lot of enthusiasm."
Or is it just something Jordan says in the locker room at halftime?
"It's some of that, too," forward Antawn Jamison said. "In the first half, we're kind of going through the motions trying to figure out what's going on. But in the second half, either we're down or it's a close game or we know we should be up more than we're up, and we play with a sense of urgency."
The Wizards have outscored their opponents in the second half in four of their first five games -- the only exception being when the Heat topped them 60-58 in the second half of a 118-106 win last Saturday at MCI Center. But the Wizards have needed strong finishes because, in each game, the Wizards have trailed after the first quarter -- and they've failed to score at least 20 points in the first period three times.
"Right now, it's really not a problem because we're not digging ourselves a hole -- except for the two Miami games -- but for some reason we're sluggish and we're not getting into the flow of the game quick enough," Jamison said. "We've really got to start paying attention to it because if we start making it a routine, you can put yourself in a hole and if could be difficult."
A Match Made in . . . MCI Center
Wizards center Brendan Haywood came away from the team's first Singles Night with a future date. Haywood left MCI Center, where he scored 13 points against the Magic, and played the dating game afterward at a nearby restaurant. Haywood selected Lesley Pinkston of St. Louis, out of three contestants, but said he couldn't repeat the answer or the question that won him over.
Haywood couldn't see the women, who were on the other side of a partition, until the game concluded. "You never know what you're going to get. She was cute and I was relieved," Haywood said. "We haven't decided where we're going. I haven't decided where I'm taking her. You've got to give me time to plan." Haywood said he was too busy to call the next day. . . .
The Wizards don't expect much offensively from forward Michael Ruffin, but they are 3-0 in games when he scores. Ruffin went scoreless in both games against Miami, but rebounded with five points against the Orlando Magic, including a thunderous left-handed dunk in the third quarter.
Ruffin has more offensive rebounds (17) than points (15) in the first five games. He leads the team in blocks (11) and is second in rebounds (34) behind Jamison, emerging as the Wizards' key man in the trenches while Etan Thomas recovers from an abdominal strain. "He's that one guy you need on your team and on the floor with you at all times. He's going to rebound, he's going to play defense and . . . he's going to work hard and we respect him for that," guard Larry Hughes said. "He's hard to replace, really." . . .
Hughes had three more steals against the Magic on Wednesday, and he continues to lead the league in that category with 3.25 per game -- more than a half-steal more than Phoenix forward Shawn Marion, who is second with 2.6.