- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gilbert Arenas joined Jerry Stackhouse on the injured list yesterday, leaving Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to wonder aloud who would see it as an opportunity to rise to the occasion.

Larry Hughes accepted the challenge.

Hughes scored 22 points, including the game-winning basket, to help the Wizards secure an 81-80 victory last night over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden.

Down 78-74 following a pair of free throws from Portland’s Zach Randolph (24 points, 14 rebounds) the Wizards rallied within 80-79 after a basket from Etan Thomas (12 points) with a little less than 40 seconds to play.

Portland’s Qyntel Woods gave the Wizards another shot when his 3-pointer banged off the rim, and Hughes knew just what to do with it.

Following a timeout with 15.3 seconds to play, triggerman Christian Laettner got the ball to Hughes at the top of the key. Hughes put a nasty crossover dribble on Ruben Patterson to get to the basket and gently laid the ball in over the outstretched hand of Rasheed Wallace, giving the Wizards the lead and forcing the Blazers to call a timeout with 10.4 seconds left.

The Blazers got the ball to Jeff McInnis, who missed a layup. Reserve guard Brevin Knight gathered in the rebound for the Wizards and passed the ball to midcourt as time expired.

The victory was the Wizards’ first on this road trip, and it was just the second home loss for the Blazers (7-7) this season.

The Wizards (6-8) won despite being outrebounded 47-28.

With Arenas unavailable and Chris Whitney taking his place in the starting lineup, the Wizards went with a bigger lineup, inserting Christian Laettner alongside Kwame Brown and Brendan Haywood on the frontline.

That group didn’t jell early, and as a result the Wizards fell behind 18-11 after Randolph sank a pair of free throws.

But the Wizards rallied back to trail by one at the end of one quarter. Not long thereafter, Washington used a 7-2 run to take its first lead since early in the first quarter at 34-32.

More than anything, the Wizards’ run seemed to serve as a wakeup call for the Blazers.

Dale Davis opened an 11-0 Portland run with a one-handed putback dunk that snapped the rim. In no time the Blazers had forged a 43-34 lead, with Randolph and Davis combining to score all but three points during the streak.

Randolph, drafted in 2001, the same year the Wizards took Brown with the first pick, was virtually unstoppable in the first half and a huge reason the Blazers forged a 26-9 rebounding edge by halftime.

Randolph had 14 points and nine rebounds by halftime to pace the Blazers.

Hughes led all scorers in the first half with 15, and his biggest basket came near the end of the half, capping a nice run that got Washington right back in the game.

Following a Randolph layup, Thomas hit a 7-foot turnaround to ignite a 9-4 burst. Hughes finished it by drilling a 3-pointer at the buzzer to close Portland’s lead to 47-43.

That was part of a 10-0 Washington run that carried over into the second half, which began with a basket by Haywood and a 3-pointer by Whitney to give Washington a 48-47 lead.

There was more back-and-forth in the third. Washington trailed 55-51 with just under seven minutes left in the period. But sloppy play by the Blazers, coupled with aggressive play from the Wizards, resulted in a 14-3 Washington run and a 65-58 Wizards’ lead with a little less than 10 minutes to play.

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