Bullish second half lifts Wizards over Chicago for 2nd win in row

Dixon leads `small' surge as Bulls score just 25 after intermission, 93-83

Pro Basketball

January 20, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Whether yesterday's come-from-behind, 93-83 win over the Chicago Bulls will have any lasting effect on the Washington Wizards won't be answered until their next game, Friday in Boston.

But, for now, the Wizards (12-28) will plant their rare, two-game winning streak and see if it doesn't grow into something big and productive.

"That's good for us, especially with what we've been doing, winning one game and then going down six or seven," said guard Larry Hughes, who had a game-high 25 points. "Being able to put two games together and then get some rest, to get the legs back, will be good. Maybe we can make a push before the [All-Star] break."

If that happens, the Wizards, who have won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 17-19, will look back fondly on yesterday's second half, in which they erased a 15-point deficit and held the Bulls (12-29) to 25 points, which tied a Chicago season low.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, as he had in Saturday's win over Seattle, rolled the dice in the second half and went with a small lineup, with just one interior player - a rotation of Etan Thomas, Brendan Haywood and Kwame Brown - and four smaller players.

The resulting injection of quickness jump-started the Wizards. Second-year guard Juan Dixon had 17 points off the bench, while Jarvis Hayes, who played the power forward slot in the "small" rotation, had his second straight double double, with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Dixon, who has been playing sporadically as his shot has wandered, was huge in the fourth quarter, hitting a 19-foot runner with 3:21 left to give the Wizards an 83-81 lead.

A minute later, Dixon picked Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich clean at the foul line and drove for a layup that boosted the Washington advantage to 85-81.

"I just wanted to provide energy," Dixon said. "It was an opportunity to play some big minutes. Brevin [Knight, the point guard] was out [with a hand injury], and I'm playing with a lot of confidence right now. I just want to keep on playing hard, and hopefully things continue to work out for myself and the team."

From there, the Wizards continued to roll, finishing the game on an 18-2 run, as their defense, which had been nonexistent in the first half, showed up in a major way.

The Bulls, who scored 32 and 26 points in the first and second quarters, posted only 25 points for the entire second half.

And Dixon and his former Maryland teammate, Steve Blake, took particular pleasure in shutting down Hinrich, whom they faced in the 2002 Final Four on the way to the national championship. Hinrich, who had 15 in the first half, was scoreless in the second half, missing all four shots from the field.

"I told Blake Hinrich had 15 points in the first half," Dixon said. "He's a good player, and he hurt us in the first half. We had to play good defense in the second half on him, and we did."

With a mess of road games in the first half of the season, and their two leading scorers, guards Jerry Stackhouse and Gilbert Arenas, out for large stretches, the Wizards feel the schedule may be turning their way, with a seven-game homestand after Friday's game.

But with the tendency toward inconsistency, no one can say what will happen next for Washington, least of all the coach.

"I'm just day-to-day," Jordan said. "We have a day off [today] and a good practice on Wednesday and then we go to Boston. That's the way I look at it."

NOTE: The Milford Mill High marching band performed at halftime of yesterday's game.

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