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Washington's balance helps withstand Raptors' surge

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jared Jeffries drove down the lane for an
emphatic first-quarter dunk, then, in a sweeping gesture, pointed
at Washington's injured co-captain sitting at the end of the bench.

The Wizards stopped moping about Larry Hughes' injury and
instead let him inspire them to one of their most important wins of
the season Friday night. Six players scored a dozen points or more,
and a two-game losing streak ended with a 118-109 victory over the
Toronto Raptors.

"Tonight was the night for us to really come back and say,
'Look, we lost a really good player, but we've got to pick it up
and still play," Jeffries said.

Antawn Jamison had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and Juan Dixon
scored 26 as the Wizards raced to a 15-point first-quarter lead,
shot 56 percent in the first half, then withstood a Jalen Rose-led
rally in the second half.

Hughes, the surprising Wizards' best all-around player, was on
the bench for the first time since breaking his thumb in last
Saturday's victory over Phoenix. The Wizards had been blown out in
two games since at San Antonio and Dallas.

After those losses, the Wizards spoke about coming to grips with
losing Hughes for four to six weeks. Hughes, concerned about his
teammates' play, gave them a serious pep talk at Friday's
shootaround.

"He gave us a speech and told us we need to get back on our
feet," said Gilbert Arenas, who scored 23 points and made 17 of 20
free throws. "We can sit here and sulk all day. Sulk don't give
you no wins."

While the Wizards were celebrating, Sam Mitchell was launching a
conspiracy theory. The Raptors coach said after the game outside
people were "trying to coach" his players, a byproduct of the
team's recent turnaround.

"What I'm saying is that as you have success, you have people
that it's not their job to coach the players, and they're trying to
give them too much information," said Mitchell, whose team had won
three straight and eight of 10.

Mitchell declined to give details, other than to say the people
are outside the organization and that he was deliberately using the
media as a platform to counter them. Asked if the people know who
they are, he said: "They probably will after this."

Rose, who scored a season-high 32 points, sounded as if had no
idea what the coach was talking about.

"I don't know who it is, either," Rose said. "I've been
around too long for somebody to tell me what to do out there on the
court. They're too worried about asking for money. They ain't
trying to give advice about basketball."

Whatever the reason, the Raptors missed their first nine shots
and played with little passion and even less defense in the first
half. The Wizards scored a season-high 65 first-half points to take
a 23-point lead at the break.

Rose, who has been unhappy about being the subject of trade
rumors as well as his demotion from the starting lineup, started on
the bench again. He played the entire second half, scored 23 points
and helped cut down a 26-point.

Washington's lead hovered between 11 and 14 for much of the
fourth quarter. The Raptors didn't cut the lead to single digits
until Chris Bosh's basket with 1 second remaining.

Rose wasn't able to complete the comeback because of Dixon, who
scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.

But instead of talking about a comeback that failed, the Raptors
spent much of the time after the game scratching their heads over
their coach's new theory.

"This is the first time we've heard anything about that,"
forward Morris Peterson said. "I think everybody in this locker
room are professionals and what got us here is believing in
ourselves. People on the sideline or wherever, I always tune them
out. If some of my friends try to tell me how to play, I say: 'OK
then, why don't you come out here and do it?' That's what I've
always done."

Game notes
Dixon returned to his sixth-man role after starting for
Hughes during the Texas road trip. Jarvis Hayes moved up to the
starting lineup and scored 16. ... The Wizards have won seven
straight at home. ... The Raptors are 3-19 on the road. ... Bosh's
franchise-record streak of nine consecutive double-doubles came to
an end. He had 16 points and eight rebounds. ... Wizards forward
Kwame Brown had his ailing ankle re-examined and will miss at least
another three weeks.