WASHINGTON (AP) -- After weeks of downplaying the quest for .500, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan turned it into a rallying cry at the start of the fourth quarter.
"We've been waiting for two months for this quarter," Jordan told his team.
It worked. The Wizards beat the Orlando Magic 94-82 on Monday to hit the break-even mark for the first time in two months, even though Jordan felt a bit sheepish about his motivational speech after the game.
"It seemed good at the time: 'This could be the closing quarter for us to reach a mark that you guys have been talking about,'" Jordan said. "I haven't really put a lot of stock in that. ... If we thought .500 was a goal, then there's nothing more to achieve."
Even so, the players' thoughts on being 23-23 called for everything but a trophy presentation. The first words out of Gilbert Arenas' mouth were: "Five hundred. We made it."
Antawn Jamison, who before the game compared the laborious quest to the movie "Groundhog Day" -- "because we keep finding ourselves one game below .500," he said -- also felt a sense of accomplishment.
"It shows a lot about the character of this team, as far as sticking to it and not giving up or people upstairs trying to disassemble this team," Jamison said. "We didn't think it would take this long to do the things we thought we were capable of doing."
Arenas had 23 points and eight assists, and Jamison had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards, who took the lead early in the first quarter and didn't trail again. Arenas struggled from the field, making 6 of 24 shots, and Jamison was 8-for-19, but the Wizards won by taking care of the ball. They had no turnovers in the first quarter, when they built a 12-point lead, and finished with seven for the game.
"Once I didn't get in the groove early, it was kind of hard to pick it up," said Francis, returning to the area where he starred at the University of Maryland. "It was a tough game, man. I would think that I would come in and have, like, 70, but it was the complete opposite."
Orlando outshot the Wizards 47 percent to 42 percent but had 18 turnovers. The Magic beat the Wizards twice earlier this season, but a key player in both victories, Jameer Nelson, is out with a sprained foot.
The Wizards got key contributions from three role players. Awvee Storey made his first career start in place of Jared Jeffries, who sat out with a bruised back. Donell Taylor went 4-for-4 and scored 10 points in the second quarter, and Michael Ruffin played solid defense in the fourth.
"Awvee Storey was the starting pitcher," Jordan said. "Donell Taylor was the middle reliever, and Michael Ruffin was the closer for us."
The Wizards in the first quarter essentially built the lead they needed to last throughout the game. They shot 52 percent in the period, led by Caron Butler's 5-for-7, to take a 27-15 advantage.
Trailing 52-39 early in the third quarter, Stevenson made four straight jumpers in a 10-2 run to pull the Magic within five. The Wizards responded with a 10-0 run with 3-pointers from Jamison and Arenas, but Orlando came back with an 11-0 run that made the score 66-62 in the final minute of the period.
After Jordan's speech, the Wizards pulled away early in the fourth. Arenas scored seven points in an 11-2 run to open the quarter to get the lead to 15. The Magic didn't threaten again.
"The engine's going to start and the locomotive is going to get moving one day," Francis said, "and we're definitely going to be appreciative of that."
Arenas teased Storey mercilessly for struggling on defense against Stevenson in the third quarter. "He did good, but we teased him in the second half when he got barbecued," Arenas said. ... Jamison became the 17th active player with 10,000 points and 4,000 rebounds. He also matched his career high with six steals. ... The Wizards are 2-0 start on their five-game homestand and have won seventh straight home games against Eastern Conference opponents. ... Orlando and Washington split the season series 2-2. ... The Magic fell to 6-16 on the road.