- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 7, 2004

Despite the hard knocks of the season, the Washington Wizards are talking about the importance of players getting to know what each can and can’t do.

Last night they discovered they could lean on each other.

Scoring 100 or more points for the fifth consecutive game, the Wizards placed all five starters in double figures — with four scoring at least 20 — for the first time in 11 months to forge a 112-100 victory over the improving Los Angeles Clippers (22-26).

The last time the Wizards placed all five starters in double figures was last March 11 in a victory over Orlando.

The Wizards (15-33) averted what could have been a calamitous loss, one that saw them blow a 22-point lead. Rather than tightening up, the Wizards took command down the stretch, making 57.1 percent of their shots in the fourth quarter (8-for-14) and sinking 13 of 18 free throws.

Meanwhile, Washington limited the Clippers to 22 percent shooting in the fourth quarter (4-for-18).

“That’s big-time basketball,” said Jerry Stackhouse, who scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half. “We are going to have nights when I’ll have big nights, Gilbert [Arenas] is going to have a big night or Larry [Hughes] is going to have a big one. And there are going to be nights when guys like Kwame [Brown] have big nights. That’s going to make us a better team.”

It is hard to envision the Wizards being any better than they were last night. In shooting more than 50 percent from the floor for the third time this season (39-for-75), the Wizards got huge efforts all over the floor.

Stackhouse, in his third game back from knee surgery, also had six assists. He and Arenas (25 points, five rebounds, four assists) carried the load in the first half, combining to score 36 of the Wizards’ season-high 64 points.

Their performance helped open up the floor for teammates in the second half. Brown scored 16 of his 22 points after intermission, making all but one of his six shots, and Hughes added 11 in the second half on the way to his first double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) of the season.

Starting center Brendan Haywood finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, blocked four shots and helped shut down Los Angles’ leading scorer Elton Brand (15 points, 4-for-15 shooting).

But the Wizards won this game by putting huge defensive pressure on the Clippers all night, so much so that the Clippers turned the ball over 23 times, leading to 32 points for the Wizards.

Five of those turnovers occurred in the first quarter, when the Wizards opened by making their first seven shots on the way to a 25-3 lead.

Though the Clippers never led, they did tie the game at 78-78 with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter.

But the Wizards remembered a 24-2 run they allowed in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss to Memphis, a game that saw them enter the period with a 13-point lead.

“We took the hit and we survived,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We said before the game that there was a knot in our stomach because of what happened the other night, just an awful, awful knot for a day and a half. We finally got it untied, I guess.”

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