Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 2/15

Game 1: Tuesday, February 15th
Game 2: Wednesday, March 2nd

Rockets 98

(33-25, 15-13 away)

Wizards 101

(32-24, 22-8 home)

    Coverage: FSSW

    7:00 PM ET, March 2, 2005

    Verizon Center, Washington, DC

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 17 23 31 2798
    WSH 28 19 26 28101

    Top Performers

    Hou: T. McGrady 26 Pts, 9 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl

    WSH: G. Arenas 33 Pts, 8 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

    Washington wins 8th in a row with Hughes in lineup

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Larry Hughes stunned his teammates, his coach and the fans with 31 points in his first game back from a broken thumb. To hear him talk, it was his game plan all along.

    Hughes did not ease himself back into the lineup the way many injured players do. He had a block and a dunk before the game was two minutes old. He played 37 minutes, made 11 of 20 shots, grabbed six rebounds, had four assists and made the 3-pointer that gave the Washington Wizards the lead for good in Wednesday night's 101-98 victory over the Houston Rockets.

    "That was above and beyond the call of duty, it really was," coach Eddie Jordan said. "Just to come and play those minutes and to score the points and play the 'D' and make timely shots late in the game. Man, that was a classic."

    The Wizards have an eight-game winning streak when Hughes is in the lineup, but the previous seven came before he was sidelined after a victory over Phoenix on Jan. 15. His teammates went 9-11 in his absence and had lost five of their last six. Though playing with a splint on his thumb, he showed no ill effects from the injury as he resumed his backcourt chemistry with Gilbert Arenas, who finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

    "A lot of players who get injured, it takes them three of four games to get a swagger back," Arenas said. "But it was like he didn't miss a beat."

    Hughes credited his success to waiting until he was properly healed to attempt a return. His thumb was broken when it was hit by Quentin Richardson during a drive in the paint, and he didn't want another hack from a defender to re-injure the thumb and knock him out for the season.

    "You're the only person who knows your body," Hughes said. "I've been around in this league, and I know that you have to take care of yourself. You have to make sure that you're ready to go, and that's really what I did."

    Meanwhile, Hughes stayed in shape and kept himself mentally sharp by watching his teammates closely during his time on the sideline. Asked if he expected to have this kind of night in his first game back, he said: "Yeah, I did."

    "This is how I planned it," he added. "I planned to come back stronger and more aggressive than I was in the first part of the season."

    The Wizards blew a 17-point, third-quarter lead but rallied from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit. Hughes' 3-pointer put Washington ahead with 3:16 remaining, part of a 13-2 run in which Hughes and Arenas combined for 11.

    Brendan Haywood scored six of his 12 points in the final two minutes, including a short turnaround fadeaway jumper over Yao Ming to put the Wizards ahead 99-95 with 50 seconds left. Tracy McGrady made a 3-pointer for his last of his 26 points with seven seconds remaining, but Arenas made two free throws with six seconds to play to put the Wizards up by three.

    McGrady then missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the game at the buzzer and, like everyone else, was left to marvel over Hughes' performance.

    "I thought he was going to be rusty," McGrady said. "I thought his timing was going to be off a little bit, but he definitely proved me wrong."

    Mike James added 24 points for the Rockets, who had six players in double figures but lost for the fourth time in five games since the All-Star break.

    The Rockets played Tuesday night in Chicago and were hurt by a slow start that included 10 first-half turnovers. Yao, unable to hold his own in the paint against Haywood, made just 3 of 9 shots and finished with 11 points.

    "In the first half we were kind of lackadaisical in our play, but we did a great job of fighting back," McGrady said. "Towards the end, we made some silly mistakes on the offensive end. We were careless with the ball."

    Hughes also had two steals, resuming his chase for the NBA steals title. He entered the game leading the league in steals per game (2.82) and was the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points (21.2), five rebounds (6.1), five assists (5.3) and 2.5 steals.

    Game notes

    Hayes has tendinitis in his right knee, while Jeffries has a deep bruise in his right knee. ... Kwame Brown, making his second start of the season, had a season-high 12 rebounds for the Wizards. ... Washington's home game against Cleveland on April 15 has been moved from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN. ... Arenas offered an assessment on Hughes that only a modern music fan would understand. "I told him I don't want to see him come back like Ma$e did an be a flop," said Arenas, referring to the rapper whose hip-hop comeback last summer was a bust.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 98 101
    FGM-FGA 34-78 (.436) 34-77 (.442)
    3PM-3PA 10-20 (.500) 7-23 (.304)
    FTM-FTA 20-25 (.800) 26-33 (.788)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-39 12-47
    Assists 22 17
    Turnovers 15 12
    Steals 6 11
    Blocks 4 5
    Fast Break Points 13 22
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 24 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 8 17

    Top Performers

    Tracy McGrady McGrady
    Points: 26
    Reb: 9
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0
    Gilbert Arenas Arenas
    Points: 33
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 2