- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2006

It is one thing to lose a game on the road to a team with playoff aspirations, as the Washington Wizards did Friday night in Chicago. But it is altogether different to lose at home against a second-year expansion team that bears little resemblance to an NBA team.

The Wizards avoided that fate last night with a 107-97 victory against the injury-depleted Charlotte Bobcats at MCI Center.

Gilbert Arenas scored a game-high 34 points for the Wizards, who also received another solid effort from a resurgent Antawn Jamison. The veteran forward, who had to receive stitches for a gash during the game, had 23 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Jamison also hit a career-high five 3-pointers — four of them in the third quarter — which proved to be key in a victory that didn’t come easy.

The Wizards (20-22) outrebounded the Bobcats 47-35.

The Bobcats (11-34) — who embarrassed the Wizards in a game in late November — have lost 11 consecutive games and 14 of 15.

But the Bobcats, who dressed just nine players last night, didn’t resemble that November team in any way. Only one starter from that game, center Primoz Brezec, dressed.

“It’s a shame they are so injury-depleted, and my heart goes out to [Bobcats coach] Bernie [Bickerstaff],” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They are missing the main core of their team. But I’m not going to measure our performance against their lack of people on the floor. I’ll measure our performance against what we did on the floor against an NBA team. I’m not going to say that if they had everybody healthy we would have lost by 18.”

With the victory, the Wizards have won seven of their last 10 games and still have the eighth-best record in the East. So the Wizards didn’t feel sorry for the Bobcats, who were without Gerald Wallace, Kareem Rush, Emeka Okafor and Brevin Knight.

“They were wounded, but that’s not our fault,” said Arenas, who scored at least 30 points for the 20th time this season. “We have to take advantage of every opportunity that we get.”

If the Wizards are going to make a push to solidify a playoff spot, now is the time.

Last night’s game marked the beginning of a stretch in which the Wizards will play seven of eight games at home, and only one of those teams — the Cleveland Cavaliers — began the night with a winning record. The Wizards’ one road game during the streak is at Toronto on Wednesday, and the Raptors have the third-worst record in the league.

Despite playing on a sprained ankle, Brezec fought valiantly in the fourth quarter to break his team’s losing skid, when he scored 12 of his career-high tying 27 points before fouling out late.

With Brezec gone, the Bobcats were done. Washington scored six straight points, capped by an Antonio Daniels layup with slightly less than one minute remaining, for a 101-94 lead.

Charlotte’s Jumaine Jones did cut the Wizards’ lead with a 3-pointer. But after Melvin Ely blew a layup, Daniels made four straight free throws to secure the Wizards’ victory.

Raymond Felton added 18 points and handed out a career-high 13 assists for the Bobcats.

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