- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Washington Wizards dropped a game to the psychologically crippled, talent-depleted, good-for-nothing Orlando Magic by a 95-91 count on Fun Street last night.

Neither team could make a play in the final minutes, the Magic up by two points after a 3-pointer by Steve Blake with 2:40 left.

Shammond Williams hit two free throws to settle the issue with eight seconds left. Between Blake’s 3-pointer and the free throws by Williams, both teams made an effort to break the rims and dull the senses.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan tried to remain upbeat in the face of a loss that had to hurt.

“I approach every game as one we could win,” Jordan said of the game his team would have won with better execution and better shooting in the fourth quarter. “We’re playing hard, and with conviction. We just make too many mistakes, as young teams do.”

The Wizards finished with 20 turnovers and shot 38.9 percent in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards tried to wrest control of the game following an uninspiring first 12 minutes that included the ejection of Gilbert Arenas, who is on the injured list with an abdominal strain.

Arenas, classically attired in the team’s blue road jersey, head band and sweatpants, was tossed from the game late in the first period after the Magic showed themselves to be friskier than their wretched record indicates.

Arenas, a high-energy sort with a proclivity to question authority, was slapped with a double-technical foul and banished from the team’s bench after hurling blue language in the direction of referee Bernie Fryer and then stepping onto the floor in protest.

The Wizards apparently felt something of an “Arenas effect” following the improbable sequence. Down 25-17 after Tracy McGrady hit both free throw attempts, the Wizards went on a 25-8 run to take a 42-33 lead with 6:09 left in the second quarter.

That surge, fueled in part by another active appearance off the bench from Kwame Brown, proved to be fleeting. The Magic closed with a flurry the rest of the first half to fashion a 51-49 lead.

Brown had 14 points in the first half, hitting double-figures for the third game in a row. It was the first time he has scored in double-figures in three consecutive games since last Jan.30-Feb.4.

Larry Hughes, who has a tendency to be the team’s “black hole,” endured a 2-of-14 shooting performance in the first half, sometimes looking to the referees for help when better shot selection would have aided his cause.

McGrady hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter to stake the Magic to an unsettling 68-57 lead, their largest of the game. The Magic came into the game with a mere two victories after enduring a 19-game losing streak that cost Doc Rivers his coaching job and McGrady his love for the game, if only briefly.

The Magic, in refusing to play the role of patsy, responded with conviction after the Wizards closed to 73-70 on Juan Dixon’s 20-footer late in the third quarter. The Magic led 78-72 after 36 minutes and had the Wizards wondering if they would become Orlando’s third victim of the season.

It did not help that Hughes seemed committed to staying in his funk. With the seconds ticking down late in the third quarter, Hughes was unwilling to part with the ball while leading a 3-on-2 fastbreak opportunity.

Instead of passing the ball to a streaking Brown on the right side, Hughes plowed ahead and incurred a player-control foul. Hughes committed another foul 2.2 seconds later that allowed Gordan Giricek to hit one of two free throws with one second left in the third quarter.

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