- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — All of a sudden, road trips aren’t such a bad thing for the Washington Wizards.

After finding winning away from Verizon Center an impossible feat in their first eight games, the Wizards have now feasted on their last two road opponents. The latest victims are the wretched Philadelphia 76ers, whom the Wizards dispatched 113-98 last night at Wachovia Center.

With Allen Iverson at an undisclosed location — either healthy and waiting to be traded or out with a back injury — the Wizards (9-10) roared back from a 20-point first-half deficit, the largest of the season, to drop the 76ers to 5-13. Washington has now won back-to-back road games for the first time since March 27 and March 28 of last season.

Gilbert Arenas, who recorded a game-high 32 points, led four Wizards in double figures as Washington won a third straight game for the first time this season.

“To me it is still a hurdle, until we get to 8-8 on the road,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We don’t want to say we’ve won a couple and we’ve solved our problems. We haven’t solved our problems and we still want to get out of this road rut. We want to dig ourselves out of this hole, no question about it.”

Once it was made known that Iverson would not be in the building — and that his career with the 76ers might be over — Jordan said that he immediately told his players that they could not afford to let up at all.

Caron Butler, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds, hammered that message home also.

“When I found out A.I. wasn’t playing, I told guys to stay with it,” Butler said. “So many guys on that team are waiting for that opportunity and want to prove everybody wrong. When we found out he wasn’t playing I wanted us to approach the game the same way and we did. Overall our will took over in the game.”

Will power helped the Wizards overcome a 1-for-9, six-point effort from forward Antawn Jamison.

But early on, as the Wizards fell behind by 12 points in the first quarter and later by 20 in the second, it appeared that the admonitions of the coach and the player fell on deaf ears.

When Philadelphia’s Samuel Dalembert scored on a 14-foot jumper to give the Sixers a 46-26 advantage with 5:03 left in the first half, it looked like the Wizards might very well be in for an inexcusably long night.

But that instead triggered a ferocious 55-27 Washington run, which lasted until the third quarter. Butler capped the run with a powerful two-handed dunk over Sixers rookie Rodney Carney that ultimately turned into a three-point play. The Wizards entered the fourth quarter with an 81-73 lead.

Butler’s dunk wasn’t the only one of note on a night. Brendan Haywood also had a couple, as did DeShawn Stevenson, who finished with a season-high 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Haywood added another strong performance with 12 points, seven rebounds and a season-high four blocks.

So have the Wizards turned the corner? Butler thinks so.

“I think that’s the right assessment to make,” he said. “The way we’re playing, guys are starting to really find their niche on this team. DeShawn, myself, Gilbert’s in a nice grove. We’re just ready. Being down on the road and overcoming that lead shows a lot about this team.”

Losers of 13 of their last 15 games and six straight, the Sixers got a season-high 21 points from Chris Webber. The forward also added 10 rebounds for Philadelphia, and Kyle Korver came off the bench to score 20.

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