- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

LOS ANGELES — A trip to Los Angeles had long meant a certain loss for the Washington Wizards.

That’s no longer the case. The Wizards ended their string of 11 consecutive losses there with a 120-116 overtime victory at Staples Center late Friday night.

In earning their first road win against the Lakers since Feb. 14, 1992, the Wizards had their best shooting night of the season to open a four-game trip against Western Conference foes that continued with last night’s loss to powerful Phoenix.

The Wizards connected on a season-high 51 percent from the floor. It didn’t hurt that guards Gilbert Arenas (season-high 37 points) and Larry Hughes (season-high-tying 33 points) combined for 70.

Arenas, who had seven assists and six rebounds, was 11 of 25 from the floor but made 14 of 15 from the free throw line. Hughes went 15 of 21.

“We knew their backcourt was very efficient,” said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who had 36 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds to notch his third triple-double of the season and his second in a row. “They were just penetrating, and we didn’t have anybody stepping in there and clogging up the paint like we normally do. They just ran down the middle all night long. Our defense wasn’t really there.”

Reserve Anthony Peeler delivered the Wizards’ biggest basket of the night. Peeler, who started his career with the Lakers in 1992, drilled a go-ahead 3 to give the Wizards a 117-113 lead with 11 seconds to play in overtime.

“It’s a confidence-builder,” Peeler said. “You gotta get the first one of a road trip like this. We are starting to play together as a team and having fun with each other. That’s the main thing.”

Bryant made a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left, but Washington sealed the win with two free throws by Hughes and another by Antawn Jamison.

One clear indication the Wizards are playing better was shown in how well they protected the ball. Washington committed a season-low six turnovers.



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