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Finding no Magic formula

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The mastery continued, this time because of a backup guard.

Orlando reserve Carlos Arroyo scored a team-high 23 points to lead the Magic to a 106-103 victory last night over Washington at TD Waterhouse Centre, where the Magic have beaten the Wizards nine times in their last 10 meetings.

"I took what they gave me," Arroyo said. "Coach [Brian Hill] ran some plays for me, some high pick-and-rolls at the end of the game for me. My job is to look for my teammates and run the team. But tonight what we did worked."

The Wizards lost despite 29 points and 10 rebounds from Antawn Jamison, a 24-point performance from Gilbert Arenas and one of the best nights of Etan Thomas' career. Thomas finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots.

But Arroyo was the difference, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Wizards (1-2) were held without a field goal for the final 4:11.

"That's what he does," Arenas said. "He's been doing that ever since he's been in the league. He can score in bunches, and he can score big. He was big for them tonight."

Somehow, Orlando almost always finds a way to beat Washington here. Two years ago, for instance, then-Magic guard Tracy McGrady scored a franchise-best 62 points to beat the Wizards. But last night, with the Magic's two leading scorers struggling, Orlando needed Arroyo to shine.

Grant Hill, who entered averaging 19.3 points a game, fouled out with just 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting. Dwight Howard, who had 14 rebounds and five blocks, was shut down offensively, finishing with seven points -- well below his average of 17.3.

Arroyo, though, made nine of his 13 shots, including three of four 3-pointers, helping Orlando make 50.6 percent of its field goals and half of its 18 3-point attempts.

The Wizards had appeared headed for their second straight win, taking a 73-68 lead -- their largest of the night -- with five minutes left in the third quarter on a basket by Jamison.

But Arroyo and fellow backup Keyon Dooling started a run at the end of the third quarter, cutting the deficit to two. Arroyo and Dooling (15 points) led Orlando's bench, which combined for 50 points.

The Wizards took their last lead of the night 99-96 on Jamison's layup with 4:11 left. It would be the last time the Wizards, who shot 45.6 percent, made a field goal.

Arroyo, meanwhile, still had something left.

With 2:19 left, he darted into the lane and stepped back to can a 17-footer for a 105-99 lead.

The Wizards still had their chances, though. After Arroyo missed a 12-footer with 1:21 left and with the Magic ahead 105-103, Caron Butler (16 points) missed a long jumper, and Thomas missed a layup after grabbing the rebound.

Orlando's Keith Bogans rebounded Thomas' miss and was fouled with 3.4 seconds to play. He made just one of two free throws, giving the Wizards one last chance to win.

On the final play, one initiated from the sideline by Antonio Daniels, the Wizards got the ball to Arenas, whose long jumper was just off the mark.

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