- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Over the last few weeks, Washington Wizards rookie guard Nick Young has played Gilbert Arenas one-on-one to help the veteran rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee. The battles have come after practices and even before games.

Last night Young took on forward Antawn Jamison because Jamison wanted to test his sore back before playing the Milwaukee Bucks. Jamison dusted the rookie, and Arenas spent the entire skirmish cheering for his fellow veteran All-Star.

Young used the loss and Arenas’ ribbing as motivation against the Bucks. He finished with several highlight-worthy dunks and a career-high 22 points to help the Wizards to a 105-97 victory at Verizon Center.

“He got me. He got me,” said Young, who also had five rebounds and three steals in 27 minutes. “That kinda motivated me. I don’t like losing. It just kinda got me going, got my spirits up a bit, and I just wanted to go out there and get a win. We needed a win with Philly right behind us, so we knew we needed this tonight.”

With the victory, the Wizards (31-32) increased their lead over the 76ers to 1½ games for the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards had 11 dunks on the Bucks and scored a season-high 66 points in the paint.

Jamison finished with a team-high 23 points and eight rebounds but left for the locker room with a few seconds left in the game after aggravating a strained lower back. He didn’t talk to the media afterward because he was still receiving treatment.

Reserve forward Andray Blatche had 15 points and seven rebounds, and starting center Brendan Haywood added 15 points and six rebounds. Point guard Antonio Daniels and forward Darius Songaila scored 11 points apiece. It was the 10th time this season six Wizards players scored in double digits, and Washington is 6-4 in those games.

After taking a 57-44 halftime lead, the Wizards watched the Bucks erase the advantage with a 23-9 third-quarter charge. Center Andrew Bogut scored 10 points during the run, and guard Royal Ivey added nine.

The Wizards and Bucks traded leads four times before Washington went up 72-71 with 2:22 left in the third. Milwaukee (23-41) tied the score again at 77-77 with 20.5 seconds left, but Young made a shot in traffic that gave Washington a 79-72 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

That sparked a 16-7 run that gave the Wizards a 95-85 lead with 6:43 left.

Blatche started it with his fourth dunk of the night, and Jamison accounted for six points. Young had a reverse jam that drew a foul, which he converted for a three-point play.

The Wizards, who shot 50 percent from the field last night, never relinquished their lead, and the Bucks never came any closer than eight points the rest of the game.

“It was a much-needed win. We needed to make home feel like home again,” said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, whose team had lost its last two home games by an average of 16.5 points. “We did for the first half and then sort of laid an egg in the third. And then did some weird things in the fourth, but we did enough to win. …

“Antawn really gutted it out. He has some strained issues, but he was really, really good. … Certainly Nick Young was a story of a guy coming in, felt it, got his confidence going. We want him to be in attack mode, and he was, and that’s where he can really help us.”

The Wizards got off to a rousing start, treating the 14,755 fans to four first-quarter dunks. Haywood’s two-handed jam was the first, followed by two from Blatche. But the most impressive came from the 6-foot-4 Daniels, who dribbled at the top of the key and then drove the lane, rose up and split a pair of defenders for a one-handed slam.

“I was trying to be aggressive, trying to set a tone early in the game,” Daniels said. “We put an emphasis on getting in the paint and getting some easy baskets, attacking the rim, and we did a good job of that in the first half.”

Blatche notched two more dunks in the opening minutes of the second quarter, and Young posterized the 7-foot-tall Bogut, then threw down another dunk on a breakaway that gave the Wizards a 46-35 lead with 3:22 left in the half. With 1:13 left in the quarter, Young hit a 3-pointer, and Haywood threw down on a alley-oop from Daniels, putting the Wizards up 55-40.

Rookie Dominic McGuire and Haywood teamed up to cap the first half with yet another slam. With less than 20 seconds left, McGuire grabbed an offensive rebound, tiptoed the baseline and tossed the ball in to Haywood, who was unguarded and drove for another two-handed jam.

Last night at Verizon Center

SEEN AND HEARD

Caron Butler took part in yesterday morning’s shootaround less than 24 hours after practicing for the first time in three weeks on his left hip, which has a small labral tear in the hip socket. Butler missed his 16th straight game and 19th since first injuring the hip Jan. 27 against Milwaukee. He said Monday he would know how well his hip was doing based on how he felt the next morning. Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said Butler looked good in the shootaround but wasn’t ready to play. He added that the All-Star will practice tomorrow “and hopefully be ready Thursday,” which is his birthday, against Cleveland. …

Gilbert Arenas, who didn’t practice Monday, did have some soreness in his surgically repaired left knee that day but bounced around the locker room last night. …

About 90 minutes before the game, a load of Girl Scout Cookies were delivered to the Wizards’ locker room. Center Brendan Haywood and forward Antawn Jamison both had three cases — yes, cases, not boxes — of cookies placed in their lockers. They were all ordered from the daughter of Michael Ruffin, who signed this summer with the Milwaukee Bucks. Each case has 12 boxes. Haywood started tossing out an assortment of Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos to his teammates after receiving his shipment. Jamison was in the trainer’s room and didn’t open his while the locker room was open.

BY THE NUMBERS

66Points in the paint for the Wizards, a season high. Milwaukee scored 54 points in the paint.

50Percent shooting from the field for the Wizards. Washington is 9-1 this season when shooting 50 percent or better.

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