Wizards divide and conquer Warriors

Quarter-by-quarter plan helps halt 5-game skid as Hayes sparks 97-79 win

Pro Basketball

January 03, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - All it took for the Washington Wizards to halt a five-game losing streak was to reinvent the game on their own terms. Instead of thinking of the game as a contiguous 48-minute unit, the Wizards broke it down into four mini-games, and took three of them, and a 97-79 win over the Golden State Warriors last night.

The Wizards (9-21) had been struggling for the past month, winning two of 13 games in December. But a new year, a lineup shuffle and this new approach apparently was enough to break the spell.

"We made up a new rule," said Washington point guard Gilbert Arenas. "We're not going to play a full game. We're playing four periods of basketball, and we feel if we can win three out of the four periods, which we did, we have a 95 percent chance of winning, which we did."

Indeed, the Wizards held a two-point lead after one quarter and fell behind at halftime but opened things up in the third, when they used a 19-4 run to take a 10-point lead.

And, for a change, Washington didn't wilt down the stretch, leading by as much as 23 before settling on the final margin.

"We just kept offensive continuity with defensive pressure," said rookie forward Jarvis Hayes, who led the Wizards with 20 points. "This is the way we want to play."

Hayes, who had started 27 of 29 previous games, was benched from the starting lineup, along with center Etan Thomas, in favor of Christian Laettner and Brendan Haywood. While Laettner and Haywood only combined for 14 points and eight rebounds, moving Hayes and Thomas energized the bench, which outscored Golden State's reserves 49-18.

And the Wizards pounded the Warriors (14-17) on the boards, out-rebounding them 58-36, including 24-9 on the offensive glass.

"A team like us, and where we are, as much as I would like to stay consistent with a lineup and a rotation, it just doesn't make sense for us. I thought the change was at the right time," said coach Eddie Jordan.

Arenas, playing for the first time against the team he left in August for a six-year, $65 million free-agent contract here, had nine points and nine rebounds.

"It was weird playing against the old team, but it was like in practice," said Arenas, who also committed a team-high seven turnovers. "You talk trash, you hit each other, but it was fun. It was special to get a win in 2004 to start the year off right."

Said Jordan of Arenas: "He adds another dimension to us, and the defense has to respect him. He makes some terrific plays out there and he makes some bonehead plays out there. But he's learning well. He's a third-year player. He gives me a lot of headaches, but we've got to have him on the floor."

When asked what allows him to let Arenas play that way, Jordan joked about his own "four-year guaranteed contract."

NOTES: Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said that injured guard Jerry Stackhouse may return to the lineup by the end of the month. Stackhouse, last year's leading scorer, has missed the entire season with a knee injury. Grunfeld said Stackhouse, who received a two-year contract extension in the offseason, continues to strengthen his leg and is running more. ... Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich took in the game from halfcourt.


Golden StateMinM-AM-AO-TAPFPTS





Van Exel343-160-00-4839







Percentages: FG .403, FT .818. 3-point goals: 8-21, .381 (Van Exel 3-9, Richardson 2-4, Dunleavy 2-5, Robinson 1-3). Team rebounds: 6. Team Turnovers: 20 (19 PTS). Blocked shots: 7 (Dampier 4, Murphy 2, Dunleavy). Turnovers: 20 (Van Exel 5, Dampier 3, Richardson 3, Dunleavy 3, Murphy 2, Cheaney 2, Cardinal, Claxton). Steals: 9 (Richardson 2, Claxton 2, Dampier, Murphy, Cheaney, Robinson, Van Exel). Technical fouls: Van Exel, 11:33 fourth. FGFTReb













Percentages: FG .446, FT .611. 3-point goals: 4-10, .400 (Hughes 1-2, Hayes 1-2, Arenas 1-3, Blake 1-3). Team rebounds: 6. Team turnovers: 20 (20 PTS). Blocked shots: 6 (Jeffries 3, Thomas, Hughes, Arenas). Turnovers: 18 (Arenas 7, Hughes 3, Jeffries 2, Hayes 2, Laettner, Thomas, K.Brown, Blake). Steals: 14 (Jeffries 3, Blake 3, Hughes 2, Arenas 2, Laettner, Thomas, Dixon, Hayes). Technical fouls: None. Golden State20241817-79


A-12,466 (20,674). T-1:51. Officials-Ted Bernhardt, Michael Smith, Troy Raymond.

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