- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS — Coach Eddie Jordan kept his new starting lineup intact, and his Washington Wizards downed the Indiana Pacers 94-85 last night at Conseco Fieldhouse, winning consecutive games for the first time since Dec.26.

Calvin Booth and Michael Ruffin remained in the starting lineup for Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison, and Gilbert Arenas had 37 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter, and eight assists to lead the Wizards.

Caron Butler added 24 points and eight rebounds.

Booth and Ruffin combined for just two points and six rebounds in 33 minutes, and Ruffin fouled out in 24 minutes. Jamison, who entered the game averaging 18.5 points, was scoreless in 13 minutes.

Arenas said the Wizards’ approach was much different from the one they took the last time the teams met. He was held to 17 points on 5-for-18 shooting in Indiana’s 111-87 victory on a snowy December day in Indianapolis. This time, Arenas shot 12-for-18 from the field and 12-for-14 from the free throw line.

“We let our offense work for us,” he said. “We didn’t go out there forcing anything. We’re not turning the ball over now, and we’re playing solid defense.”

Jermaine O’Neal led the Pacers with 20 points and seven rebounds. Jeff Foster added 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The score was tied before baskets by Arenas and Antonio Daniels and two free throws by Arenas gave the Wizards an 86-80 lead. Arenas hit a short jumper with 1:20 left and the shot clock winding down to make the score 88-80 and put the game out of reach.

“I wasn’t even in attack mode,” Arenas said. “I was just trying to come off the pick-and-roll. If there was a mismatch, I was just trying to get to the rim or into the 15-foot area where I could just try to shoot over them.”

It was the second-best scoring game by a Pacers opponent this season, surpassed only by Kobe Bryant’s 45-point effort for the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.

“One of the reasons it seemed like a quiet 37 was his shooting percentage,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get him under control.”

Jordan was just as pleased with Washington’s defense as he was with Arenas’ performance. The Wizards came in allowing 101 points a game.

“It says a lot about the direction we’re going in, with the new starting lineup a huge, huge defensive emphasis,” Jordan said. “Some guys didn’t play as many minutes tonight as normal, but we really cared about doing the things that it takes to win and not about what’s going to shoot up in the stat sheet.”

Indiana’s Anthony Johnson said the Pacers might be taking teams too lightly. Washington came in with a 14-19 record.

“Sometimes I know on certain possessions, it might come down to not really respecting guys on other teams, and I think that we have a problem with that,” he said. “They end up burning us somehow, some way.”

Butler’s 29-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Wizards a 40-39 halftime lead. Arenas scored 15 points in the first half, and Butler added 14.

The Wizards led 60-53 late in the third quarter when O’Neal blocked two consecutive shots by Haywood, then scored on the other end. The Pacers outscored the Wizards 8-5 the rest of the period to cut Washington’s lead to 65-63 heading into the fourth.

Washington went 13-for-14 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and 25-for-34 overall.

“Just didn’t seem like we were really right, all night,” Carlisle said. “I don’t have a reason why that is. We never got anything sustained.”

Notes — Indiana point guard Jamaal Tinsley missed his eighth consecutive game because of a torn right biceps. … The Wizards entered the game with a 5-11 road record, and the Pacers were 11-4 at home.

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