In his 1st start, Dixon takes charge for Wizards, 101-93

Ex-Terp scores 27 points in 44 minutes against Bulls

Pro Basketball

March 02, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Washington-area sports talk radio callers have taken it as a matter of faith all year that Juan Dixon not only should have been playing more for the Washington Wizards, but also should have been starting.

After all, the former Maryland and Calvert Hall star only led the Terps to the school's first national championship last year, so turning around the fortunes of the Wizards would be a snap, right?

Well, the conspiracy theorists got their evidence with Dixon's breakout performance last night in his first NBA start, as he led the Wizards to a 101-93 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Pressed into extended duty with the injury absences of point guards Tyronn Lue (left shoulder) and Larry Hughes (sprained right ankle), Dixon had a career-high 27 points and six rebounds in 44 minutes.

"I feel great," said Dixon, whom the Wizards drafted last June after trading Courtney Alexander to the New Orleans Hornets for a first-round pick. "This is the opportunity that I have been waiting for, to prove that I could play on this level and to prove this organization right, because they drafted me with the 17th pick.

"I'm just going to go out there and play hard, and do my job and continue to make things happen."

Dixon led Washington's furious third-quarter charge, scoring 16 points in the period that included four three-pointers, to spark a 19-2 run that broke open a close game and gave the Wizards (29-29) an 18-point lead.

In the period, Dixon hit six of seven field-goal attempts.

"Juan was great," Washington coach Doug Collins said. "We needed some juice. At halftime, we were just so flat, and I told our guys, let's not look back and let this one slip away."

With Hughes, Lue and Etan Thomas (fractured left eye socket) all hurt, and Stackhouse and Jordan battling minor leg injuries, the Wizards needed contributions from others.

And they got them. Forward Christian Laettner chipped in 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Stackhouse scored 27 points. Playing mostly point guard, Jordan had 17 points with eight rebounds and eight assists to power Washington to its third straight win.

But the night belonged to Dixon.

"I wasn't nervous," Dixon said. "I'm used to warming up and getting right in the starting lineup and trying to set the tone. I did it for the last three years at Maryland. That's what I'm accustomed to. This is a new thing for me, coming off the bench, but that's what I have to do.

"I'll play my role, and come off the bench when Lue and Larry come back. But I'll try to get in a rhythm early when I get in a game and, hopefully, I can continue to play well."

Said Jordan: "He made some big shots for us. ... A couple of times, he got us into stagnant situations and by the time we got into the play, we were looking at a shot-clock violation. He did great, but there are a lot of things he has to continue to learn."

The game was marked by a testy third quarter, when the Bulls (21-40) were called for four of their five technical fouls. Also, Collins was whistled for his first technical of the season in the first half.

The hostilities continued into the fourth period, when Jordan appeared to hit Chicago forward Jalen Rose in the back of the head but was called for only a regular foul, not a flagrant foul.

"I felt like it was David playing Goliath, but Goliath was allowed to use the weapon," Rose said.

The Wizards, who moved into seventh place in the Eastern Conference at a half game ahead of the Orlando Magic, signed point guard Anthony Goldwire before the game. He played three minutes and scored three points.

Wizards tonight

Opponent:Miami Heat

Site:American Airlines Arena, Miami

Time:6

TV/Radio:CN8, Ch. 50/WTEM (980 AM)

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