Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 1/20

Game 1: Friday, January 20th
Game 2: Monday, February 13th

Hornets 99

(19-20, 7-13 away)

Wizards 110

(18-20, 11-8 home)

    Coverage: COX

    7:00 PM ET, January 20, 2006

    Verizon Center, Washington, DC

    1 2 3 4 T
    NO 21 33 20 2599
    WSH 32 26 26 26110

    Top Performers

    NO: C. Paul 28 Pts, 6 Reb, 11 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

    WSH: G. Arenas 33 Pts, 4 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Wizards pull away from Hornets behind Arenas, Jamison

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Off to a much poorer start than last season, the Washington Wizards finally feel as if they're back on track toward the playoffs.

    Why? They're learning to spread the ball around on offense, and help each other on defense. The word that kept popping up after a 110-99 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night was "trust."

    "We're playing together. We're sharing the ball," Gilbert Arenas said after his 33-point, five-assist, zero-turnover performance. "We're trusting each other on defense and on offense."

    Washington's new Big Three -- Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler -- combined for 77 points, and the Wizards pulled away early in the fourth quarter for their fifth win in six games.

    "We are really starting to click," said Jamison, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds for his third consecutive 20-10 game. "We are starting to understand what it takes in order for us to be successful, with everyone getting touches. They don't know who to give all of their attention to. You concentrate on two guys, and there is still another guy who can get 20 points a night. This is a great nucleus, and I'm glad it's finally starting to come together."

    Or, as the Hornets' P.J. Brown put it: "They just keep coming, coming, coming, and we could not catch up with them."

    Hornets point guard Chris Paul showed why he drew raves from Wizards coach Eddie Jordan before the game and leads NBA rookies in points and assists. Paul recorded his 11th double-double with 28 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds.

    "He's going to be an All-Star quickly," said Arenas, who worked out with Paul before the NBA draft. "He's my rookie of the year."

    But Paul didn't get a whole lot of help as the Hornets' four-game winning streak ended. David West added 17 points, and Kirk Snyder and Rasual Butler had 12 apiece -- all of Butler's came in the second quarter.

    Caron Butler and reserve guard Antonio Daniels led the surge that put away the game, combining for 13 of Washington's first 18 points in the final period. Arenas' pass to a trailing Butler for a soaring dunk highlighted a 12-2 run that put Washington ahead 102-86 with just under 6 minutes to play. That spurt also included a 3-pointer by Arenas after an open Daniels swung the ball over.

    "They are meshing a little bit better," Jordan said. "They are making plays, playing off the dribble, and they are aware of their spacing. We are more patient, with a little bit more trust."

    See, there's that word again.

    Arenas now has scored 30 in exactly half of Washington's 38 games. Caron Butler added 24, and Washington improved to 9-6 since he moved into the starting lineup; he's averaging nearly 20 points in that span, making for a suitable replacement for Larry Hughes, who complemented Arenas and Jamison before leaving for Cleveland as a free agent in the offseason. The Wizards were 9-14 with Butler as a reserve.

    Washington is 18-20; the team was 23-15 at the same point last season, when it made the postseason for the first time in eight years.

    "We're so good individually that you get caught up in it sometimes, and then you see why good teams with great, great individual talent can fall -- because everyone wants to win the game, everyone wants to make great plays," Arenas said. "Here we're just trying to share the ball. If Detroit can do it, anybody can do it."

    Until the fourth quarter Friday, neither team played much aggressive defense, allowing for a free-flowing, fast-paced game with few fouls or stops in play. But with the outcome in the balance, the Wizards kept the Hornets without a field goal for 4 minutes.

    New Orleans never managed to tighten up that way on D.

    "Just bad defense on our part," Hornets coach Byron Scott said.

    Game notes

    Washington's Etan Thomas missed a second consecutive game because of his grandmother's death, and Jordan said the reserve center might not be back for Sunday's game against Memphis. ... Hornets F Chris Andersen picked up three fouls in 4 minutes in the first quarter. When the scoreboard showed replays, the graphic misspelled his name "Anderson."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 99 110
    FGM-FGA 38-78 (.487) 43-83 (.518)
    3PM-3PA 5-11 (.455) 5-10 (.500)
    FTM-FTA 18-21 (.857) 19-24 (.792)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-34 13-45
    Assists 22 22
    Turnovers 12 15
    Steals 9 5
    Blocks 2 3
    Fast Break Points 24 10
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 16 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 6 17

    Top Performers

    No/oklahoma City
    Chris Paul Paul
    Points: 28
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 11
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 1
    Gilbert Arenas Arenas
    Points: 33
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1