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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
New Orleans never managed to tighten up that way on D.
"Just bad defense on our part," Hornets coach Byron Scott
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."