- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2008

Less than a week after hitting a 3-pointer at the horn to push the Washington Wizards past the New Orleans Hornets, shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson struck again.

Another timely basket by Stevenson helped rescue the Wizards last night in a 101-84 win over New Orleans at Verizon Center.

The Hornets had erased the Wizards’ 11-point third-quarter lead, pulling within 80-79 with 6:40 left to play. But just when New Orleans seemed to have things rolling, Washington rediscovered its offense and stepped up its defensive attack.

Antawn Jamison hit two foul shots and then connected on a 3-pointer with 5:52 left to give the Wizards an 85-79 lead.

At the opposite end, center Brendan Haywood blocked a driving attempt by the Hornets’ Peja Stojakovic. Washington point guard Antonio Daniels collected the ball, and the Wizards went charging up the court. Daniels dished to Stevenson, who spotted up and buried his 3-pointer, putting New Orleans back in a nine-point hole with 5:22 to go.

Although not as dramatic, the shot was just as damaging to the Hornets, who called a timeout that did little good. They returned to the floor, and Haywood, who finished with 10 rebounds, came up with another block. New Orleans then missed its next three shots and trailed 93-79 before coach Byron Scott called a timeout with 2:56 left. But the Wizards scored another six points before the Hornets managed to end the 19-0 run.

“The turning point of the game was when we really started defending at the rim late in the game and got some stops at the rim and in the paint, did a great job defensively,” said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, who posted a season sweep over Scott, for whom Jordan was the lead assistant in New Jersey for four seasons before being hired in Washington in 2003. “And then DeShawn woke up, really made some timely shots for us. We just controlled the game when it got down to [one], and we really got tough and physical down in the paint, got some deflections, got some stops, got some steals and stayed patient and organized on the other end.”

It marked the fourth win in the last five outings for the Wizards — who played in front of a crowd of 20,173 at Verizon Center — their 16th sellout of the season — and improved to 29-30. The Wizards are now 2½ games ahead of Philadelphia and rank sixth in the Eastern Conference, three games ahead of New Jersey.

It was also the second straight win for the Wizards, who rallied from 20 points down to win in Chicago on Friday night.

Jamison led the Wizards with 28 points and nine rebounds, and Stevenson added 16 points. Andray Blatche came off the bench to score 11 points.

The Wizards now boast two wins each against elite teams New Orleans and Boston and own another over Dallas. They held Hornets All-Star Chris Paul in check, limiting him to 16 points and forcing him into six turnovers.

“They were trying to get it going, but we did a good job forcing Chris Paul into turnovers,” Stevenson said. “Antonio did a good job. I think I had him late, but Antonio did a good job, and Brendan did a good job on screens, so overall defensively it was just a good job.”

After trailing for much of the first quarter, the Wizards took a 26-24 lead with 9:17 left in the second quarter.

That basket began a 10-4 run that translated into a 36-28 advantage with 4:56 left in the half.

The Wizards led 43-33 with 2:07 left in the half and then extended the advantage to 53-40 by halftime thanks to a late spurt that included consecutive 3-pointers by Oleksiy Pecherov, a long jumper from Jamison and a layup by Daniels.

Stojakovic opened the third quarter with consecutive 3-pointers, and Paul scored seven straight points to cut the lead to 62-59 in a five-minute span.

But Darius Songaila scored on back-to-back baskets, and Blatche added another, and the Wizards appeared to have regained control when they scored another five straight points to reclaim their double-digit lead at 71-60 with 3:28 left in the third quarter.

But New Orleans still had life when the quarter ended, trailing just 74-69, and then pulled within one before Washington’s decisive stand.

“This is one of the best teams in the NBA,” Daniels said. “When you play teams like the Hornets, your room for error is really small. We did some things tonight defensively. We countered their run with a run of our own.”

Wizards report

Last night at Verizon Center

SEEN AND HEARD

It was the Wizards’ 15th game without Caron Butler, who learned last week that he had a small labral tear in his left hip socket.

Butler had been averaging 21.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists this season. His point total was the team’s highest with Gilbert Arenas (22.4-points average in eight games this season) out while recovering from knee surgery in November.

Arenas also remained out. He had originally targeted yesterday as his return date, but after practicing with the team Feb. 18, he learned his recovery would take longer than he expected. A revised return date has not been set.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Arenas said last week, maintaining he’s not taking the floor unless he’s 100 percent.

When asked for an update on both injured All-Stars yesterday, coach Eddie Jordan said, “No update. I have no comment on Caron Butler or Gilbert Arenas. I’m talking about the game and our players that are available.” …

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld wasn’t in attendance for the game because he was in Tennessee, where his college jersey No. 22 was retired by the Volunteers yesterday.

Mike Jones

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