WASHINGTON (AP) -- Having shown they can win without several of
their key players, the Washington Wizards proved again they can
also do it without their coach.
Eddie Jordan left the game in the first quarter with a virus,
returned, then left for good in the second quarter to be treated
for dehydration. That's no big deal to a team that has lost 271
man-games due to players' injuries and illnesses, so the Wizards
made do once again with what they had in Wednesday night's 102-99
victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
"Everybody has to take their turn," said guard Larry Hughes,
whose turn consisted of 20 games on the sidelines with a broken
thumb earlier this season. "It's something we have to deal with.
We have to go out and win without Coach."
The Hawks made it interesting before losing their 10th straight
and 23rd in 24 games. The game was tied five times in the fourth
quarter, but Gilbert Arenas scored nine of his 36 points in the
final 3½ minutes, including the go-ahead basket on a driving layup
in traffic with 34 seconds to play.
Arenas then drew a charge on Al Harrington with 20 seconds left,
denying the Hawks their best chance to send the game to overtime.
Tyronn Lue also missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"Everybody wants to play free," said Arenas, explaining the
Wizards' inability to put the Hawks away. "It's not the same kind
of basketball as when Coach is in. When you're head coach goes out,
you just want to go play. But we found a way at the end to get
something going that was working for us."
Assistant coach Mike O'Koren coached the Wizards in Jordan's
absence. The Wizards went 1-1 in November with O'Koren in charge
when Jordan was hospitalized with a blood clot.
Jordan is expected to return for Friday's game at Orlando.
Hughes scored 26 points, Etan Thomas had 16 and Jared Jeffries
had a career-high 10 assists as the Wizards won their third
straight and improved to 25-9 at the MCI Center, the most since the
arena opened during the 1997-98 season.
The Wizards have been playing without Antawn Jamison, Brendan
Haywood and Jarvis Hayes, but they just completed their best West
Coast road trip in five years and are jockeying for home-court
advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They haven't made the
postseason since 1997.
Harrington, returning after missing one game with a knee injury,
led the Hawks with 20 points. Josh Smith scored 17 as Atlanta fell
to 3-34 on the road.
"It gets frustrating, but you've got to go through it," rookie
forward Josh Childress said. "You've got to learn. We've got to
learn how to finish games."
The Wizards didn't trail through the first three quarters, but
they never had a comfortable lead. Early in the fourth, Tony Delk
sank a 3-pointer that put the Hawks ahead for the first time.
But Arenas took command down the stretch. He tied the game at 93
with a pair of free throws with 1:55 remaining, then hit a 20-foot
baseline jumper off an inbounds pass to give the Wizards the lead
with 1:18 to play. Harrington tied the game again with a 10-foot
fadeaway over Kwame Brown with 50 seconds left, but Arenas
responded with the layup that put Washington ahead to stay.
Before succumbing to the virus, Jordan made a starting
lineup change, inserting Laron Profit in place of Brown against the
smaller Hawks frontcourt. It was Profit's fourth start of the
season. ... The Wizards swept the season series 4-0 and have won
five straight overall against the Hawks. ... Washington signed
forward Damone Brown to a second 10-day contract.