- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2007

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — As Antawn Jamison walked back to his locker stall, the lyrics from Beyonce Knowles hit song “Irreplaceable” seemed appropriate.

“You must not know ‘bout me,” Jamison said, repeating the chorus as he strutted confidently back to his stall in the crowded and tiny visitor’s locker room at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

But after scoring a season-high 35 points — including 11 in the fourth quarter — in the Washington Wizards’ 99-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons, just the opposite was true.

“He is our captain and he’s the guy that keeps everything in place for us,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of Jamison, who has stepped back and let the spotlight come to both Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. “For him to come up with the big shots that he made and for him to rebound and play defense against Rasheed Wallace the way he did tonight, that was huge.”

Jamison helped the Wizards (25-17) bounce back from a 127-105 rout by Phoenix three nights ago with his solid play. He finished the game 13-for-23 from the field, including going 4-for-10 from the 3-point line.

“It came down to who was going to make that last big shot between ‘Twan, Caron and Chauncey [Billups],” said Arenas, who finished with 25 points, 10 assists and just one turnover while playing all 48 minutes. “It was like a playoff game down the end and we got the win. A big win.”

Jamison, who looked as if he had been robbed of a goal-tending call on a layup that, had it counted, would have given the Wizards a 94-92 lead with 1:25 to play, put the Wizards ahead 95-94 shortly thereafter when Butler fed him for a 3-pointer.

After Billups sank a pair of free throws to give the Pistons a 96-95 lead with 29.4 seconds remaining, Butler — who struggled from the floor (1-for-9) on the way to just eight points — converted four straight free throws, the last coming with 5.2 left in the game.

Detroit (24-17) called timeout after Butler’s final free throw to set up a play. The ball went to Billups, but he couldn’t get the shot of his liking, so he passed to Wallace, who lofted a 3-pointer with time expiring that harmlessly bounced off the rim.

The victory gives Washington the best record in the Eastern Conference. But the Wizards won’t be able to savor the victory long — the Pistons visit Verizon Center three days from now.

Jamison was able to beat Detroit with solid outside shooting, and often made awkward-looking forays to the basket look easy.

“We just didn’t locate him,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “Perimeter-wise he floated around a lot and hit some big 3s. What happens is you start giving a lot of attention to Arenas, and Jamison floats around out there. Then all of a sudden he’s either knocking down 3s or taking a two-dribble flip shot. That’s what he does.”

Jamison enjoyed getting the opportunity to go at the Pistons, who like to try and post Wallace up against him.

“People are going to go at me,” Jamison said. “Just give me the opportunity to go back at them. Tonight I was able to get the opportunity and I was able to mix it up. That’s when I’m successful, when I’m mixing it up.”

In capturing their second consecutive big road win — they beat the division-rival Magic at Orlando — the Wizards played staunch defense. After getting off to a shaky start the Wizards played much better in the second half when they outscored the Pistons 53-48.

They also had to overcome a 10-point Detroit lead in the second quarter. Their answer was to hold the Pistons to just 16 points in the third.

“I think that was the key for us,” Butler said. “We tightened up and that was crucial for us. Now we’ve got to make sure we go to Boston [on Sunday] and take care of a young team that gave us a scare the last time we played them.”

The Wizards blew a 21-point lead against Boston on Jan. 20 but held on to win in overtime.

Former Wizard Richard Hamilton led the Pistons with 27 points (11-for-21). Billups added 17 point sand nine rebounds and Wallace finished with 14 points and eight rebounds as the Pistons saw their three-game winning streak snapped.

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