- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Washington Wizards purged a series of no-shows from their fragile system by defeating the Seattle SuperSonics 99-84 last night at MCI Center.

With Larry Hughes scoring 27 points and Kwame Brown 18, the Wizards overcame the corrosive effects of embarrassing performances in the Meadowlands and Auburn Hills, Mich.

Jarvis Hayes, starting in place of Brendan Haywood, displayed the kind of energy that is often lacking in the team’s post players.

Hayes, the rookie from Georgia who was making his first start since Dec.30, finished with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, prompting a smile from the frazzled facade of coach Eddie Jordan.

“You can’t tell about a rookie sometimes,” Jordan said. “They are going to have some tough nights, and they are going to have some nights that remind you why you drafted them.”

The Wizards, who demonstrated no semblance of fight in their two-game road swing last week, showed a remarkable level of resistance in their familiar digs. It also helped that the Sonics were a tired team, having arrived in Washington at 4a.m. after playing in New York on Friday night.

“I wish I had more teams come in at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Jordan said. “A win for us … it feels good. It feels really good.”

The Wizards led by as many as 10 points in the first half before the Sonics found their road legs and pulled even at 45-45.

Hughes, as usual, set the scoring pace for the Wizards. He had 10 points in the first 24 minutes but needed 13 shots to get those points.

Etan Thomas, the forward with some poet in him, made a passionate contribution off the bench, deploying his weapon of grit.

Brown reverted to his half-awake self, mixing a strong play with a weak one, making the big dunk but unable to make the small catch in the post.

The Sonics looked especially weary in the beginning after falling to the Knicks 108-88 a night earlier.

Behind Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen and Ronald Murray, the Sonics steadied themselves in the second quarter and appeared willing to make a game of it.

The Sonics succumbed to a funk after intermission, hitting a cold spot that invigorated Washington. The Wizards rushed to a 67-53 lead, their largest of the game up to that point, following a putback by Juan Dixon with 5:09 left in the third quarter.

The throng, conditioned to be uncertain with this team, reacted with thunderous chorus of boos after Hughes botched a dunk attempt in the open court with 1:39 left in the third quarter. Hughes lost the ball on his climb to the rim, and the team’s long-suffering victims in the stands showed their first signs of genuine life.

Juan Dixon, the team’s resident “black hole” who has been in a season-long shooting slump, finally made a series of shots in a meaningful contest, as opposed to padding his numbers near the end of a runaway endeavor. Dixon finished with 12 points on just eight shot attempts in 17 minutes.

A 22-footer by Hayes staked the Wizards to a 77-63 advantage with 10:25 left.

A 14-point lead hardly eased the concern on the faces of those sitting in on a season that is going nowhere. The Wizards had dropped 20 of their last 24 games coming in.

The Sonics, though, were a tired western team on an East Coast trek. They never mounted a run in the fourth quarter, and the Wizards were allowed to enjoy a rare and comfortable victory, aided in large measure by their season-best 51.3 shooting mark.

“We don’t want to get too carried away with this, because, obviously, they were a little down from their travel, ” Jordan said.

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