- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

The Washington Wizards have a pulse.

The Wizards, who so far this season have been doing so many of the wrong things with clockwork-like efficiency, last night did many of the right things against Golden State.

In a 97-79 victory at MCI Center that marked only the third win for the Wizards since late November, it was Washington that made the hustle plays when it absolutely had to. It was Washington that banged its way to a dominating 58-36 rebounding advantage. And, perhaps most importantly, it was the Wizards who demonstrated a killer instinct at the end.

“It was a great team effort,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “I have to give the guys credit. They came together; they made a pact and we got one.”

It was a victory the Wizards (9-21) sorely needed before the 12,466 at MCI Center.

Jordan said the Wizards have stayed close-knit despite a spate of crucial injuries and winning only two games in December. That performance was enough to have them tied with Orlando for the fewest wins in the league at the start of the new year.

Team closeness showed when little-used veteran Mitchell Butler called a team meeting following Thursday’s practice.

“It was just fun to watch those guys play like that,” said Butler last night, who along with Brevin Knight were the only players who did not play.

“We got out like gangbusters, running, filling the lane. Hopefully we’ll remember that feeling and try to get to that feeling every night where guys are playing with each other and for each other,” Butler said.

That is precisely what the Wizards did in the third quarter when they used a 17-2 run to erase Golden State’s 58-53 lead and forge a 70-60 lead of their own. The margin got as large as 23 points.

Rookie Jarvis Hayes led the Wizards with 20 points on 9-for-18 shooting. Hayes, who had started all but three games before last night’s victory, came off the bench to provide a spark.

Hayes was not the only player to make a substantial contribution. He was part of a bench that outscored the Warriors 49-18.

Jared Jeffries tied his career high with 12 rebounds and chipped in a season high two blocks. Christian Laettner, who was reinserted as a starter, finished with eight points, a career-high nine assists and six rebounds.

Facing his old team for the first time, Gilbert Arenas had nine points, nine rebounds and five assists to offset his seven turnovers.

The Wizards pulled down 24 offensive rebounds.

“They pretty much had their way with us tonight,” Golden State coach Eric Musselman said. “They did a phenomenal job on the backboards. You don’t get 24 offensive rebounds without playing with great energy.”

Jason Richardson led the Warriors (14-17) with a game-high 25 points, and Mike Dunleavy added 14.

Richardson, the two-time defending NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion, put his wares on display in the first half.

Richardson had a scary putback dunk in traffic in the first quarter, and a one-handed, alley-oop in the second quarter.

The slam — fed by Nick Van Exel — was part of an 8-2 Golden state run that saw the Warriors erase Washington’s 41-36 lead to go ahead 44-43 at the break.

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