- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

The Washington Wizards have been burdened by their inability to put together back-to-back wins.

And after they fell behind the Chicago Bulls by 18 points in yesterday’s matinee at MCI Center, there was that palpable feeling of “here we go again.”

But rather than bow to one of the other teams languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Wizards rallied in the second half and dominated the fourth quarter of a 93-83 victory.

The Wizards (12-28), who defeated Seattle 99-84 on Saturday, won consecutive games for the third time this season but for just the first time since Nov.17-19, when they beat Atlanta and Cleveland.

“It’s real big,” said reserve guard Juan Dixon, who contributed 17 points, five steals and five assists in 31 clutch minutes. “We wanted to get two wins in a row, and today we got it done. Now we get a day off and start thinking about Friday’s game in Boston.”

For a team that has had little reason to puff out its chest — after all, it has lost home games to Atlanta and Orlando, the teams with the worst records in the NBA — yesterday’s win might have provided one.

After the first half of the game, Washington appeared headed toward one of its uglier losses of the season. The Wizards fell behind by 18 points late in the second quarter and allowed the Bulls (12-29) to shoot 55.8 percent from the field.

“We just didn’t do too many things right in the first half,” coach Eddie Jordan said of the Wizards, who made just 38.1 percent of their shots in the half. “We keep a shooting chart, and our guys were just 2-for-11 [from near] the rim in the first half. We couldn’t make anything.”

That changed, however. Jordan recently has fallen in love with a small offense that at times features Dixon, Steve Blake (nine points, seven rebounds, four assists), Larry Hughes (game-high 25 points), Jarvis Hayes (game-high 14 rebounds) and either Kwame Brown (12 points, eight rebounds) or Etan Thomas (13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks) at center.

The lineup paid off for Washington yesterday.

Although the Wizards never led in the third quarter, they outscored the Bulls 24-12, including a 17-6 run that drew them within 68-67 late in the quarter.

Washington trailed 81-75 with 4:56 to play, but it limited the Bulls to just one field goal while going on an 18-2 run to end the game.

The Bulls scored just 25 points in the second half and made only 10 of 27 shots.

“I think the good thing about it is we did it with our defense,” Blake said. “We were bad in the first half but much better in the second.”

Blake and Dixon played a huge part in helping shut down Chicago guards Kirk Hinrich (15 points, eight assists) and Jamal Crawford (19 points, seven assists) in the second half. After combining to shoot 10-for-15 from the floor in the first half, Hinrich and Crawford were 1-for-14 in the second.


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