- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

After scoring 14 points in the first half, Washington Wizards center Brendan Haywood spent most of last night’s second half against the New York Knicks proving as hard to locate as someone in the witness protection program.

Until the Wizards truly needed him.

Moments after flubbing a pair of crucial fourth-quarter free throws, Haywood converted a clutch three-point play — his only field goal of the second half — to rally the Wizards to a 106-104 victory over the Knicks at MCI Center.

“In the end it came back to me so it’s all good,” Haywood said of his redemptive play. “For about 10 seconds after I missed those free throws, I was really hurting because I thought I let the team down. It was good that I could come back and finish it with the free throw.”

Haywood’s big moment came with 7.1 seconds to play. He had an all-around good game, finishing with 17 points, 14 rebounds (nine offensive) and four blocks. It was his third double-double of the season.

One of Haywood’s pet peeves over a summer in which he replaced body fat with muscle was that he was a non-factor in the fourth quarter of games last season. But coach Eddie Jordan had high praise for him last night after Haywood sealed the victory.

“I didn’t want to talk to him so I don’t know how dejected he was,” Jordan said jokingly about the missed free throws. “I’m sure he felt bad, and you could tell by his facial expressions that he did.

“But there was some game left to play. You can’t take yourself out of it because you missed two free throws. You’re going to get another chance, and he really made up for it.”

Washington, which trailed by 11 points in the third quarter, took its first lead of the second half as Antawn Jamison (25 points, 13 rebounds, career-high seven assists) capped a 10-0 Washington run to give the Wizards a 99-97 lead with 3:55 left.

New York, led by Nazr Mohammed’s 20 points and 11 rebounds, retook the lead when Tim Thomas broke a 101-101 tie on a 3-pointer with 1:37 left.

Jamison, who had his ninth double-double of the season, responded with a layup that cut the lead to 104-103. After a series of missed opportunities by both teams, Haywood gathered a miss by Gilbert Arenas and scored. Fouled on the play by Kurt Thomas, he sank the free throw as the crowd of 16,702 erupted.

“Brendan is one of those guys who is like me,” said Jamison, who had talked long and hard with Haywood, his former college teammate at North Carolina, over the phone concerning the way he was used last season. “He likes to prove people wrong. He’s slimmed down, and he’s been able to run up and down the court and score the ball when you need him to score, block shots and rebound. I’m happy for him to get the opportunity to show people he can play.”

New York had one last chance to win the game, but Mohammed and Thomas missed close jumpers.

The victory was the eighth in 10 games for the Wizards (11-6), who improved their home record to 6-3.

All five Wizards starters scored in double figures. Arenas added 20 points and handed out seven assists and Larry Hughes had 18 points and a game-high nine assists to go with three steals.

New York (9-10) shot much better than the Wizards, connecting on 52.9 percent. But in the fourth quarter, the Knicks were just 8-for-25 from the field.

New York’s Allen Houston, who missed the first 18 games of the season, made his first appearance.

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