Absence again fills Wizards' bill, 95-87

With Spurs' Duncan out, Washington capitalizes

Jamison contributes 35

February 10, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards have improved in many ways this season. They lead the NBA in comeback wins from double-digit deficits. They've already exceeded their total in overall victories from last season and in All-Star selections for the past 18 years.

The Wizards might also have the best timing of any team in the league.

For the fourth time this season, the Wizards took advantage of a key player's absence - in this case reigning MVP Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs - and continued their incredible turnaround.

Having erased an early 11-point deficit to the league's best team, Washington rode the All-Star tandem of Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas to beat the Spurs, 95-87, before a raucous sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center. It was the 10th time this season that the Wizards had come back after being down by double figures.

Jamison scored a season-high 35 points, and Arenas, after a slow start, finished with 24. The two combined for 22 of the team's 32 points in the fourth quarter, 14 of them by Jamison. Tony Parker led San Antonio (39-11) with 22 points and nine assists.

The victory was the third straight for Washington (29-19) after a season-high four-game losing streak, and reversed a 28-point defeat to the Spurs in San Antonio in the first game the Wizards played after Larry Hughes broke his right thumb. The win gave Washington the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

"We all know our roles. We try to do whatever it takes to win," said Jamison, who made 14 of 24 shots and also had a team-high 11 rebounds while playing 46 minutes, two more than Arenas. "Tonight, I was feeling it a little bit in the fourth quarter and was able to hit the big shots."

None was bigger than the back-to-back threes Jamison made before and after Parker's three-pointer had cut Washington's lead to 79-77 with 4:26 to play. The Spurs, who beat Charlotte after Duncan sprained an ankle in practice Tuesday morning, never got closer.

In accomplishing what they had done in beating Phoenix without Steve Nash, Philadelphia without Allen Iverson and Minnesota without Sam Cassell (Dunbar), the Wizards benefited from Duncan's absence.

The Spurs, who rely on the league's stingiest defense and finding open shots when Duncan gets double-teamed, were outrebounded (47-42), outscored inside (38-36) and seemed out of sorts when their three-point shots didn't fall (7-for-26).

"We had the kind of shooting night they had when they came to San Antonio," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.

Though Eddie Jordan didn't put much into the revenge angle - "That game was light years away," he said - the Wizards' coach admitted that he began thinking about his team's 24-2 deficit in San Antonio last month when Washington started slowly last night.

"At least we scored four points and I said, `At least we're having more success than we did in San Antonio,'" kidded Jordan.

Arenas, who started out missing his first five shots and wound up 9-for-28 for the game, said he was more affected by seeing his shooting stats from last month's game in San Antonio flashed across the screen as he watched a tape of it before last night's game.

"The last time we played them I was 0-for-12. That's what I was thinking about," said Arenas. "Once the first one went down, I knew I was all right."

Just like the Wizards, who not only lead the NBA in double-digit comebacks this season, but good timing.

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