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Hot Wizards take advantage of Nash-less Suns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Juan Dixon jumped, clenched his fists and let
out a yell amid the roar of the fans as he ran downcourt. It was a
fitting way to celebrate a spectacular layup during Washington's
16-0 fourth-quarter run against the NBA's top team.

Dixon scored 13 of his 26 points -- including a driving
change-hands-in-midair layup in traffic -- in the final period,
helping the Wizards to their seventh straight win, a 108-103
victory that sent the Phoenix Suns to their first three-game losing
streak of the season.

"Emotion, man. Getting an opportunity," said the former
University of Maryland star, explaining his series of emotional
releases that including a pose to admire a 3-pointer.

"There's times when you're on the bench the whole game, you
urge your teammates on, but you're not really a part of it because
you're not out there contributing," he said. "Me, getting an
opportunity to play and be a part of it, it's a lot of fun. I'm
enjoying it right now."

The Wizards, off to their best start since 1978-79, made up a
10-point second-half deficit and won for the eighth time this
season when trailing at the start of the fourth quarter. They
usually make it thrilling -- they won on a buzzer-beater by Larry
Hughes at Milwaukee the night before -- but they're winning.

"I know they're probably aging watching us play," said point
guard Gilbert Arenas, referring to the team's fans. "But it's
exciting basketball."

Arenas scored 26 points, Hughes had 22 points and 13 rebounds,
and Antawn Jamison added 17 points and seven rebounds. One
potential setback: Hughes jammed his right thumb in the fourth
quarter and will be reevaluated Sunday.

But it was reserve guard Dixon who was the late sparkplug for
the second straight night. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the
fourth quarter Friday night against the Bucks and was 10-for-13
from the field against the Suns and became the first Wizards player
other than Arenas, Jamison or Hughes to lead or tie for the team
lead in scoring this season.

"I'm just going to play my role," Dixon said. "Those three
guys have been carrying us the whole year, and it's up to us to
come off the bench and be productive."

Steve Nash, the NBA's assists leader, sat out after bruising his
thigh in Phoenix's loss to Indiana the previous night. His
replacement, Leandro Barbosa, opened 1-for-8 in his first start of
the season. Barbosa finished with 15 points and no assists, and the
Suns' 13 team assists were a season-low for the third straight
game.

"We don't have Steve Nash. It's a completely different story
out there when you've got your court leader," said Quentin
Richardson, who scored 25 points. "But at the same time, we were
still in position to win the game. We just had a bad stretch and
that was tough."

Amare Stoudemire scored 26 points for the Suns, 15 after being
fired up by a taunting foul on Hughes late in the final seconds of
the first half. But most of those points came from the free-throw
line -- Stoudemire was just 3-for-12 from the field in the second
half.

Shawn Marion added 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Suns, who
are 0-3 on their East Coast road trip. Phoenix got no points from
its bench.

Both teams' fatigue from playing the night before showed in 18
combined first-half turnovers, with neither team leading by more
than nine. Hughes got a technical for celebrating in Stoudemire's
face after a dunk in the final 10 seconds of the half, and
Stoudemire responded with a dunk just before the buzzer.

When they returned for the second half, Stoudemire and Hughes
were fired up, but their mini-rivalry was overshadowed down the
stretch by Dixon's heroics.

"He knows his role," Arenas said. "He comes out shooting. If
he's on, he's going to stay in. If he's not, he knows we're going
to pull him out."

Game notes
The Wizards are 8-5 against the Western Conference and have
scored 100 points in 10 straight games. ... Washington's Jarvis
Hayes returned after missing one game with a concussion. ... Don't
expect Wizards forward Kwame Brown back anytime soon. The 2001 No.
1 overall draft pick has played in just 14 games because of ankle
injuries. "We're looking at a long-range healing process," coach
Eddie Jordan said. "We're not looking at anything for a week or
two, maybe a little bit longer." ... The sellout was the Wizards'
third of the season.