<
>

Arenas scores 44 in Washington's fifth straight loss

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Philadelphia 76ers' late-season surge
didn't miss a beat without Allen Iverson.

With the league's leading scorer sidelined with two sore thumbs,
the 76ers blew a 21-point first-half lead and trailed by 13 in the
fourth quarter Saturday night before rallying for a 112-106 over
the slumping Washington Wizards.

The victory gave the 76ers a season-high four-game winning
streak and put them two games over .500 for the first time this
season. They are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference
standings, just two games behind the Wizards, who have lost five
straight.

"We're two games over .500, isn't that wonderful?" coach Jim
O'Brien said with a smile. "All these firsts."

Andre Iguodala, Willie Green and Marc Jackson scored 20 points
each to lead six 76ers in double figures as the team spread the
wealth without Iverson, who hurt his thumbs in Friday night's win
over Cleveland, and without Chris Webber, who missed his fourth
straight game with a sprained left shoulder. Philadelphia improved
to just 2-5 with Iverson out of the lineup.

"It would have been easy to just fold, just fold," Jackson
said. "It would have been easy to fold and have an excuse that
Allen and Chris are not here. But we have so much fight as a unit.
We have so much fight as a team and so much pride -- that
Philadelphia pride."

Gilbert Arenas scored a career-high 44 points for the Wizards,
who are rapidly descending in the Eastern Conference standings.
Washington once seemed securely set for the fourth seed and
homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but now
there in uncertainty as to whether they will even make the playoffs
for the first time since 1997.

"I think we are trying to learn what this time of year is
about," coach Eddie Jordan said. "A lot of these teams have
playoff experience, and this is something that a young, new
first-time playoff-contending team has to learn."

Arenas made 13 of 24 field goal and 12 of 15 free throws for the
Wizards, but Larry Hughes was his only reliable scoring teammate.
Hughes, playing with a painful sprained elbow, scored 23 points but
had five turnovers. Antawn Jamison, returning after missing two
games with a sore knee, scored 14 points on 6-for-18 shooting.

Once again, the Wizards came out flat, hardly playing defense in
a first half in which the 76ers shot 59 percent -- including 57
percent from 3-point range -- and had assists on 18 of their 23
field goals.

"We need to start playing from the beginning, as soon as the
jump ball," Arenas said. "The starters need to come out and play
for real. We need to stop somebody. We can't until the second unit
comes in and we decide, 'OK, now we need to play some defense.' We
need to do it from the beginning."

Green started in place of Iverson and finished with nine
assists. He also stole the ball from Arenas and fed Samuel
Dalembert for a fast break dunk with 48 seconds remaining, capping
an 8-0 run that gave the 76ers a 108-101 lead.

"When I found out that I was playing, I just wanted to come in
and give it what I've got while I'm on the floor, so that's what I
went out there and tried to do," Green said. "I got up early this
morning today and got on the treadmill because I knew I was going
to be running with Gilbert and Larry and Juan (Dixon), so that
helped me."

The Wizards had a 13-0 run to take a 93-80 lead early in the
fourth quarter, but the 76ers answered immediately with a 12-0 run
to pull within one with 6:19 to play. While Washington's push was
led overwhelmingly by Arenas and Hughes, the 76ers had
contributions from their entire lineup.

The 76ers started the game at a torrid pace, hitting open
jumpers and taking advantage of open lanes to the basket. Five
76ers scored in a 17-0 run that built a 42-21 lead early in the
second quarter.

"We're peaking at the right time," Jackson said. "The
chemistry is there at the right time. Chris will be back and
hopefully Allen will be back for the next game. We're staying
ready. We know what we have to do to perform and win games, and
we're willing to do it."

Game notes
Arenas has scored 40-plus points six times this season. He
had matched his previous career high of 43 against Boston on
Tuesday. ... Philadelphia won the season series 2-1. ... 76ers
forward Josh Davis needed four stitches over his left eye after
getting hit under the basket in the second quarter, but he returned
to the game in the second half. ... Wizards playoff tickets went on
sale Saturday. More than 16,000 tickets were sold in the first 2½
hours.