- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

The Washington Wizards, after letting a ton of momentum slip away, needed some clutch performances in the late stages of last night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Unsurprisingly this comeback season, they got just that.

With Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison combining for 91 points, Washington avenged its worst beating of the season by rallying in the fourth quarter to defeat the Timberwolves 117-114 before a sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.

Arenas led the Wizards (19-13) with a season-high 40 points on 13-for-26 shooting, Hughes finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and Jamison had 23 points and 10 rebounds as Washington overcame a seven-point effort by the bench to end the Timberwolves’ string of seven consecutive victories over them.

If ever there was a night on which Arenas, Hughes and Jamison needed to be the team’s Big Three, this was it.

The trio scored all but two of the Wizards’ 30 points in the fourth quarter to help Washington extend its current winning streak to a season-long four games. Only once — when they combined to score 92 points in an overtime victory over the Lakers — have the three players had a better offensive showing.

“It feels good. We didn’t beat them as bad as they beat us but a ‘W’ is a ‘W,’” Arenas said, referring to the 35-point licking the Timberwolves handed the Wizards the day after Christmas.

Last night’s win came despite the Timberwolves’ bench outscoring the Wizards’ reserves 56-7. With back-to-back victories against Seattle and Minnesota, the Wizards have a winning record (6-5) against teams from the stronger Western Conference.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said last night was not about payback but merely about getting another win that was there for the taking.

“Our guys want every game,” Jordan said. “They wanted this no more than they wanted Atlanta or Detroit. They want it every night, and this is the beautiful thing about our group.”

The Wizards, who led by 12 points in the first quarter, saw the Timberwolves (17-15) take a 114-108 lead on Latrell Sprewell’s two free throws with 1:49 to play. Kevin Garnett had 25 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks for Minnesota, and Sprewell added 19 points.

Arenas’ 3-pointer with 1:39 left keyed a 7-0 Washington run, culminating in a 115-114 Washington lead with 27.4 seconds to play.

Jamison, a 79 percent free-throw shooter, uncharacteristically missed a pair of free throws with 17.2 seconds to play.

“Both of them felt comfortable,” Jamison said. “I wasn’t pressing. I went through my normal routine. I thought both of them were going in. It just shows the character of our team, though. We didn’t put our heads down. And guys kept letting me know that we were going to be all right.

So they were. The Timberwolves’ Wally Szczerbiak, boxed under the basket, missed a layup. And Garnett, with Jared Jeffries (13 points) guarding him closely, missed a short jumper along the baseline.

“Jared’s defense was big for us,” Jordan said. “He did a terrific job on K.G. down the stretch.”

Jarvis Hayes, who had all seven of the bench’s points, chased down Garnett’s miss and was fouled. Hayes hit the two free throws, and the final margin was preserved when Garnett missed a long jumper.

Arenas, Hughes and Jamison — who played 45, 43 and 43 minutes, respectively — should have been tired afterward, especially because all three played the entire fourth quarter. But that wasn’t the case.

“No, no, no, no no,” said Hughes, who is going to get consideration for Eastern Conference player of the week honors. “This is fun. This is big fun.”

It always is when you win.

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