Wizards 97, Nets 86
-- Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison hit a jumper from the right corner late in the fourth quarter and lightly tapped his right fist against his chest -- thump, thump, thump -- to show that he had heart as he ran down the court.
The Wizards proved they had heart Saturday night during a 97-86 win against the New Jersey Nets. For the second game in a row, the Wizards had a double-digit first-half lead vanish before the start of the fourth quarter. But, just as they did in an overtime win against Boston, the Wizards rallied with something rarely seen this season -- defense.
"We're going to score points, without even thinking about it," Jamison said after the Wizards held the Nets to 17 fourth-quarter points and held an opponent below 90 points for the first time this season. "I think at first, we weren't paying attention to the defense, now we're focusing on it."
With Jamison and shooting guard Larry Hughes leading the way, the Wizards improved to 5-4 and snapped a four-game losing steak against the Nets. They also won at Continental Airlines Arena for the first time since Nov. 30, 1999 -- a string of eight losses -- and just the second time in 12 games.
Jamison scored 27 points and Hughes had 22 points and five steals to give Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan his first win against the team that employed him as an assistant for four seasons.
"It's always different and emotional here for various reasons," said Jordan, in his second season as head coach of the Wizards. "Right now, for us, the Wizards are 5-4 and we're moving uptown."
The Wizards won their second in the row despite point guard Gilbert Arenas going 0 for 4 from the field and scoring a season-low seven points. They led by 14 points near the end of the first half, but they trailed 71-67 with 11 minutes 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Forward Jarvis Hayes (14 points) came off the bench to score five points during a 7-0 run and the Wizards wouldn't trail again.
The Nets' Richard Jefferson dunked over Wizards forward Michael Ruffin to bring the Nets within two points with less than six minutes remaining, then Hughes took over, scoring the next six points. After hitting a free throw, Hughes dribbled into the lane, whirled back out and dropped in a three-pointer with Nets forward Eric Williams and center Alonzo Mourning colliding while defending the shot.
Hughes, the league's leader in steals, then stepped in front of Jefferson (22 points) to get a steal and dribbled down the court for a layup to give the Wizards an 87-79 lead.
After the Nets closed within five, Jamison followed with his heart-tapping jumper. "We have the talent to win. We have the focus to win," Hughes said. "We're confident that we have a good team. We're trying to get everything rolling and see where it takes us."
The Wizards won without scoring 100 points for the first time this season but as an example of the woeful state of the Nets (2-7), it was the first time this season that they scored more than 80 points at home. The Nets, the lowest-scoring team in the league, topped 100 in two road overtime games.
The Nets have lost five in a row, but they had won four in a row against the Wizards entering the game. These Nets, however, bear little to no resemblance to the squad that dominated the Wizards last season -- and certainly not the team that made back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals, when Jordan was the top assistant for then-coach Byron Scott. The traded all-star Kenyon Martin to the Denver Nuggets in the offseason for three draft picks.
"They lost a great deal. Heart. Soul. Guts," Jordan said, referring to Martin. "It's a shock to the system when you lose something like that and you didn't get anything in return. They're without Jason Kidd, too."
Kidd, the Nets' best player the past three seasons, had knee surgery last summer and isn't expected to return until the middle of December.