- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

The Washington Wizards had as many turnovers as points in the fourth quarter. One of their best players sat on the bench in street clothes. What looked like an insurmountable halftime lead turned into a deficit.

A script for disaster, right?

Not last night.

The Wizards scored more points in overtime than they did in the fourth quarter, earning a 111-106 shocker over the Charlotte Hornets at MCI Center before 13,830.

Washington, which scored 10 points and committed 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter to blow a 21-point, third-quarter lead, outscored the Hornets 15-10 in overtime to improve its record to 19-39.

After playing a splendid first half, the Wizards, again without injured Jerry Stackhouse, tried their best to give the game away, getting outscored 56-38 in the second half.

But Gilbert Arenas scored eight of his game-high 35 points in overtime — including two of his five 3-pointers — to help pull out the win and avenge a 120-98 rout less than two weeks ago in New Orleans.

Arenas, who played all 53 minutes, was 13-for-27 from the floor and handed out 11 assists. He also became the first Wizards player to score at least 30 points in back-to-back games since Michael Jordan last February.

“It was a performance that he should relish,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “It was a playoff atmosphere. It remains to be seen if we’ll get there, but it was a playoff atmosphere. We had a taste of it tonight, and Gilbert was the guy that carried us from beginning to end.”

Said Arenas, who missed 26 games earlier this season with groin and abdomen strains: “I’m just starting to get my feel back, and the team is helping me. I have to thank them because they are finding me wide open. They are also clearing out the lane, and I am doing what I do.”

Rookie Jarvis Hayes, who started in place of Stackhouse, finished with 19 points and eight rebounds as the Wizards won for the third time in their last four games.

The Wizards were so superior in the first half it was shocking they needed Arenas’ overtime heroics.

Although Washington’s 58 first-half points weren’t a season high, its all-around game in the first 24 minutes was perhaps as crisp as it has been this season.

The Wizards made a little less than 60 percent of their shots in the first quarter but led only 30-26, mostly because New Orleans (32-28) kept pace by shooting 57 percent.

But only the Wizards sustained the effort in the second quarter, giving them some separation.

With the scored tied 32-32 following two free throws by New Orleans’ David Wesley, Washington scored the game’s next 17 points. Steve Blake’s 3-pointer gave the Wizards a 49-32 lead with 4:38 remaining in the half.

But the Hornets, behind 33 points and 11 assists from All-Star guard Baron Davis, thundered back.

The Hornets were down by as many as 21 in the third quarter but got the deficit down to 14 by the start of the fourth. Charlotte began the final quarter on a 22-7 run to take a 94-93 lead.

Both teams had chances to end the game in regulation. Davis rejected an Arenas layup, but his long-range jumper with less than a second to play struck iron, and the game headed to overtime.

In overtime, the Wizards went ahead for good when Arenas hit his fifth 3-pointer of the night to give them a 105-102 lead. Kwame Brown extended the lead to 109-104 with less than a minute remaining.

Note — The Wizards and reserve point guard Brevin Knight agreed to a contract buyout following the game. Knight averaged 4.3 points and 3.2 assists in 18.7 minutes for Washington. Knight, who was acquired from Phoenix at the start of the season in a trade involving Jahidi White, is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to earn $5 million this season.

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